The trend in youth sports injuries parents should know
What has changed in sports medicine over the past decade
If you are the parent of a young athlete, you may have noticed a difference in the way kids are participating in sports than when you were a kid.
At Cook Children’s SPORTS Rehab, we’ve noticed a shift in what we see in our clinic. Over the past decade, the three major changes we’ve seen are the number of overuse injuries, the amount of early sports specialization and the way we treat concussions.
The first two issues I mentioned go hand-in-hand. It’s no coincidence that we are seeing more overuse injuries at the same time we are seeing early sports specialization. Overuse injuries come from repetitive micro-trauma to tendons, bones, and joints caused by repeating the same type of activity over and over.
If kids are playing the same sport all year around they are repeating the same movement patterns over and over again. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s there wasn’t the opportunity to play year round sports like there is now. You may have had a favorite sport, but you had to wait for that season to roll around, and in the mean time you would play another sport if you wanted to stay active.
Now, if your favorite sport is baseball, you can find leagues to play in all year round, and the same is true for most other sports. As a result of this early specialization, we are seeing more and more overuse injuries in our young athletes.
In our baseball and softball players we are seeing more elbow and shoulder injuries, and the number one risk factor for overuse injuries of the shoulder and elbow is the volume of throws. If an athlete is playing baseball year round, the volume of throws is going to be significantly greater than an athlete that takes a break to play another sport.
A recent study showed that 15-19 year olds accounted for 56.7 percent of the ulnar collateral ligament reconstructions (Tommy John) performed between 2007-2011.This means over half of these surgeries are being performed on patients who haven’t even finished their freshman year of college. While early specialization is a contributor to the uptick in these overuse injuries it is not the only factor. Things like poor mechanics, poor flexibility and inadequate strength all contribute to overuse injuries. As more and more kids participate in athletics there becomes more and more need for good conditioning and injury prevention programs. Increased sports participation is a great problem to have, because that means our kids are being active, but it also increases the need for our coaches, and we as parents, to be more aware of ways to keep our kids safe from these overuse injuries.
Treatment of concussion has been a popular topic in the news as of late, and this is an area that has changed significantly over the last decade and continues to evolve as we learn more about these injuries. Ten years ago we tried to grade concussions based on the severity. The concussions were graded 1-3 based on the patient’s symptoms and whether they lost consciousness. In some cases of Grade 1 concussions, the athlete was allowed to return to activities the same day as the injury.
We then switched to saying the athlete either has a concussion or they don’t, and all athletes that were deemed to have a concussion were disqualified from participation until cleared by a physician. In most cases we would shut these athletes down completely; limiting TV, school, phone time and interaction with other people in an attempt to let them get complete cognitive rest until their symptoms resolved. Then once symptoms resolved we would start a return to school and return to play protocol.
Now kids still have to be cleared by a physician, and they still have to follow a return to play protocol, but we have realized that completely isolating these kids while they recover and limiting their interaction with friends was doing more harm than good.
So after a brief period of brain rest (approximately three days), we start slowly integrating kids back into activities of daily life as tolerated. It is important to have a physician that deals with concussions involved in the patients return to activity so that they are getting the appropriate accommodations at school and home to allow for the appropriate amount of rest, but that will still allow enough activity to stimulate the patient enough to promote recovery and keep them from becoming isolated.
For more on the specifics of how treatments have changed for all of these areas, and for information on other changes in sports medicine, we would love for you to attend our annual Cook Children’s Sports Medicine Symposium July 21, 2016.
Education is the key to keeping our young female athletes in their sport vs. being on the sideline with an injury. To learn more Cook Children’s has an annualSPORTS Symposium to educate those who work with our athletes: Coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists and school nurses.
Please join us on July 21, 2016, to learn more about the female athlete in the morning and what is sending athletes to the ER in the afternoon.
Early Bird Special Ends June 30, 2016
Ryan Blankenship, PT, MPT, SCS, is a SPORTS physical therapist at Cook Children’s. Cook Children’s SPORTS Rehab is a leader in the community in sports injury. Additional information and helpful tips can be found on the Cook Children’s SPORTS Rehab website. Cook Children’s SPORTS Rehab is a leader in the community in sports injury prevention.