The numbers are in, and they are suitably grim: three-and-a-half millions kids ages 1-13 are treated for sports injuries every year. Many of these are minor scrapes and bruises, but many are not: far too many kids continue to sustain life-altering injuries to their ligaments, muscles, and brains.
As these numbers permeate the national consciousness, more people have begun stepping up to demand a standardized set of safety protocols that would apply across all the major youth sports. A task force has already begun drafting these very guidelines, and recently published some of the goals they are setting for the project:
The guidelines cover creating emergency action plans for sudden cardiac arrest, catastrophic brain and neck injuries, exertional heat stroke, potentially life threatening medical conditions, environmental issues such as lightning and access to medical services.
Ultimately the guidelines should also cover some of the injuries that I treat every day as a pediatric orthopedist in San Diego: sprains, strains, tears and breaks. Although there are some safety protocols built into various leagues, a definitive set of guidelines that cover broad issues such as sports specialization and mandated rest should be baked into the charter of every kids’ league nationwide.
To protect your kid from lasting sports injuries, visit the best pediatric sports medicine center in San Diego. Start with AOSM.
Over-specialization among young athletes is a frequent topic on this blog. As more kids engage the same sport year-round, the repetitious nature of that activity can lead to a spike in stress injuries and asymmetrical development.
It bears repeating that when kids do just one thing all the time, they place themselves at risk for the kind of sports-specific traumas that professional athletes face. Intensive training should belong to several activities, not just one.
The NBA seems to agree, as they recently issued a new set of guidelines for young players:
The guidelines, co-authored by USA Basketball, pushed three main points:
Delay single-sports specialization in basketball until age 14 or older.
Limit high-density scheduling based on age-appropriate guidelines.
Ensure rest from organized basketball at least one day per week, extended time away from organized basketball each year and adequate sleep each night.
Kids need space to rest, grow, and thrive. Mixing up their athletics is a key to cultivating a healthy and broad-based physical development. If you have questions about how much is too much among young athletes, contact the San Diego Orthopedic Surgery Center today.
I see kids from every walk of life in my role as a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, but the most common sport that brings new patients is football. It perhaps goes without saying that football’s gladiatorial design leaves many new children hurt each season.
No area of football injury has garnered as much attention as concussions, which have earned extensive coverage up and down the age brackets. Professional football players continue to be diagnosed with unusually high rates of CTE, and most physicians believe that the high incidence of concussions on their sport is to blame.
Now new data suggests that younger players are at risk for similar lifelong difficulties, even when blows to the head do not rise to the level of official concussion:
It’s a sobering video, and a compelling reminder that there is much we yet don’t know about closed head injuries in children, or about sports injuries generally among young people.
If your child is a competitive athlete and you have questions about his or her long-term health, please don’t hesitate to contact the best pediatric orthopedist in San Diego.
I have written about this before: many sports injuries in young people could be prevented by providing more reasonable timelines for rest, and creating longer offseasons. We could also help kids avoid injury by reducing the emphasis on single sport specialization, and dialing back the pressure overall.
It seems I am not alone. The American Medical Society of Sports Medicine recently issued a statement on the same problem, citing one member with a commonsense prescription:
“More and more kids are having adult-type surgeries,” she said, some from overuse or repetitive injuries. That kind of surgery, that was preventable. That didn’t have to happen. They throw too hard, too fast and they pitch through the pain…The risks of playing year-round are not only injuries, but burnout and getting sick of what they’re doing,” Bergeson said.
What’s the answer? Rest more. Relax more. Be a kid more. You can train hard when it’s time, but be sure and “clock out” enough to give your body time to recover, heal, and grow.
Ironically, too many injuries from overuse in a person’s early years can eliminate any chance of participating on a professional level in adulthood. So play the long game. And stop playing so much.
As a specialist in pediatric orthopedic care, I field a lot of questions about how to treat and prevent sports injuries in young athletes.
It is an evergreen topic, especially as our nation’s athletic organizations seem to push ever younger in their search for greatness and marketability. The pressure faced by youth athletes in basketball, baseball, and tennis, just to name a few, is considerably greater than it was just a few years ago before the sports media began focusing so closely on its farm system.
If you have a child who practices all day and excels at competition, you are likely looking for ways to protect his or her body as it grows and matures – and to prevent the kind of injury which could derail the whole effort before it really gets underway. One easy way to keep your kids safe: watch out for signs of overuse:
An overuse injury is an injury to a bone or muscle that develops over time as the tissue undergoes repetitive stress and is not given enough time to heal and recover. Growing tissue in children and adolescents makes them susceptible to overuse injuries, and they can develop specific injuries not seen in adults with fully mature bodies. In fact, about half of all sports injuries in young athletes are from overuse.
These subtle injuries can quickly graduate to full-blown crises, which is why it is essential to rest and restore often. Young athletes need a few months off each year from a given sport, and their repetitive activities such be delimited as much as possible to encourage variation and stretching.
To begin a consultation with an expert in sports medicine for kids here in San Diego, contact AOSM today.