|STOP Sports Injuries Campaign protects children
By Dawn Brazell
All anyone has to do to experience how far the world of sports has
evolved is to tune into one of the multiple, all-sports channels.
Another not so fun indicator is the dramatic rise in the number of
children in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for sports injuries.
MUSC orthopaedist David Geier, M.D., said he’s amazed at how big of a
problem it has become and how more children are having to undergo
surgery for sports and overuse injuries. It’s one reason he’s excited
that the STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries
Campaign gained traction during the summer.
“It’s getting a lot of media exposure because it highlights a problem
most people don’t realize exists. Most people don’t think of sports as
potentially harmful to a kid, but they can be when parents, doctors and
coaches fail to take the overuse issues seriously.
It’s just baffling about how common and how big of a problem it is.”
For example, it used to be unheard of a decade ago for an athlete,
other than a professional major league baseball pitcher, to undergo the
Tommy John surgery (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) for an
overuse injury. That procedure has skyrocketed in high school athletes
in the last decade, he said.
practice on soccer fields in West Ashley as the fall season gears up.
Sports provide healthy benefits for children when parents, coaches and
health professionals take the proper precautions.
Cautioning for a
need of balance, Geier said sports seem to be evolving as the primary
focus in many young athletes’ lives. Citing from the work of Alvin
Rosenfeld, M.D., a psychiatrist specializing in adolescents, Geier said
structured sports time has doubled during the last 20 years, while in
that same time, family dinners have been cut by one third, and family
vacations have decreased 28 percent.
Along the same lines, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association
(NATA) has calculated that a young athlete spends an average of 326
hours of practice time under the supervision of a coach during one
season, often far exceeding the amount spent with teachers.
Geier said the volume of training performed by many of these young
athletes is increasing faster than their growing bodies are able to
handle it. He serves on the American Orthopaedic Society for
Sports Medicine (AOSSM), one of numerous sports groups supporting the
mission of the STOP Campaign.
According to the AOSSM, more than 3.5 million children, aged 14 and
younger, are treated for sports injuries each year, and nearly half of
the injuries suffered by middle- and high-school athletes are overuse
injuries. Surgeons are seeing four times as many overuse injuries in
youth sports compared to five years ago. For those coaches and parents
who believe that their children or players won’t be affected, the NATA
has shown that girls involved in organized sports have an estimated
injury rate of 20 to 22 per 100 participants per season, while boys
have a risk of 39 per 100 participants per season.
Geier said it can be hard to put the statistics in context given the
growth in obesity rates from children who are too inactive. The best
way to look at it is that it’s really two different patient
populations, he said.
The good news is that an estimated one-half of the injuries involve
overuse issues and can be prevented with the right education for
parents, coaches and doctors. His main advice is for parents and
coaches to take any kind of sports pain seriously.
“If their shoulder hurts, if their knee hurts, don’t blow if off and
say ‘no pain, no gain.’ Adhere to ways to not focus on winning so much,
but on making it fun—working on mechanics and the techniques. Stop the
specialization of sports at such an early age, like 8 or 9, where kids
only do one sport. That’s a new phenomenon.”
Younger children can’t handle the same stresses on their bodies that
older children can, he said. They need to rest in between days of hard
practice and to cross train so they’re not stressing the same joints
repeatedly. How much is too much depends on the age of a child and the
sport, he said.
Raising awareness requires changing attitudes, which can be difficult
with the increasing exposure and money pouring into sports, fueling
dreams of children becoming pro-athletes.
The goal is to help children focus on the game, good techniques, and
having fun. That keeps them in the game for life, he said.
“The younger youth athletes have to have surgery, the less likely they
are to progress in their sport. It’s likely to end their sports career.”
As far as advice to physicians, Geier recommends erring on the side of
“Don’t be afraid to shut a kid down for four weeks or six weeks or a
season. They need not to be afraid to do that, especially for young
Did You Know?
- Children ages 5 to
14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated
- According to the
CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.
STOP Sports Injuries
- By age 13, 70
percent of kids drop out of youth sports. The top three reasons:
adults, coaches and parents.
The campaign has a Web site (http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org)
details what coaches, parents and health professionals can do to
prevent and treat injuries. There are tips that can be downloaded with
guidelines for a multitude of sports from cheerleading to baseball.
There’s also a health care provider’s resources section with a tip
sheet on how to talk to parents and athletes about sports injuries.
Friday, Sept. 17, 2010