Groups Offer Tips on How to Avoid a Lifetime of Chronic Conditions
ROSEMONT, Ill. AND DALLAS, March 1 – Team sports are a great way for kids to improve physical fitness, coordination and self-discipline. Unfortunately, they can also result in injuries such as sore shoulders, swollen knees and other ailments that, if not taken seriously, can become chronic later in life. Certified athletic trainers and orthopaedic surgeons have observed an alarming increase in adult-type athletic injuries among children and adolescents. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 3.5 million sports-related injuries in children under age 15 were treated in the U.S. in 2003. To generate awareness of this increasing problem and help educate young athletes, their parents, coaches and the media on how to prevent, treat and rehabilitate such injuries, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has teamed up with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), for the Academy’s sixth annual national public service announcement (PSA) campaign. The year-long campaign kicks off in March 2005 with advertisements featuring kids playing baseball that will appear in major magazines, newspapers and at airports, including the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and the Indianapolis International Airport, with the provocative headline: “What will they have longer, their trophies or their injuries?” The March program coincides with National Athletic Training Month, which promotes the theme of "Rehabilitation: Accelerated Return to Activity." “Young athletes are not merely small adults,” says John M. Purvis, MD, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon and a clinical assistant professor, at the University of Mississippi Medical School, in Jackson, Miss. “Their bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are still growing, which makes them more susceptible to injury. Growth plates - the areas of developing cartilage where bone growth occurs in youngsters - are weaker than the nearby ligaments and tendons. What is often a bruise or sprain in an adult can be a potentially serious growth plate injury in a young athlete.” Why has there been such a surge in youth sports injuries? Purvis, other orthopaedic surgeons and certified athletic trainers (ATCs) alike believe it’s “Overuse Syndrome.” Since many kids are playing the same sport constantly instead of participating in a variety of activities, they suggest cross-training in moderation throughout the year to prevent one area from becoming overworked and stressed. Larry Starr, ATC, a former major league baseball athletic trainer with the Cincinnati Reds and Florida Marlins and who is now based in Fort Lauderdale, recommends that young athletes should always warm up before beginning any activity, take rest breaks, replenish fluids and cool down and stretch after play. He also suggests that to avoid seasonal overuse, players should not participate in more than one sports team at a time. “With the increasing popularity of travel teams, young athletes might participate on their school team during the week, and travel team on weekends. This definitely puts them at greater risk of injury,” adds Starr. “Parents and athletic coaches should try to group youngsters according to skill level and size, not chronological age, particularly during contact sports,” suggests Purvis. “If this is not practical, they should modify the sport to accommodate the needs of children with varying skill levels.” Starr also encourages young athletes to take precautions during practice and games. “All young athletes should have pre-participation exams to ensure they’re fit for play,” he says. “Parents and coaches play an important role and should instruct and practice proper techniques, be alert to injuries, hold practices and games with adequate rest days built into the schedule and have an emergency plan in place. These measures will make a huge difference,” he says. “Treatment and rehabilitation are critical, but even more important is prevention.” For more information, visit www.aaos.org and www.nata.org. About the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS): With more than 28,000 members, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons ( www.aaos.org ) or ( www.orthoinfo.org ), is a not-for-profit organization that advocates improved patient care, provides education programs for orthopaedic surgeons, allied health professionals and the public. About the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA): Certified athletic trainers (ATCs) are unique health care providers who specialize in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses that occur to athletes and the physically active. The National Athletic Trainers' Association represents and supports 30,000 members of the athletic training profession through education and research. March is National Athletic Training Month. www.nata.org. NATA and AAOS are participating in the Bone and Joint Decade ( www.usbjd.org ), the global initiative in the years 2002-2011 to raise awareness of musculoskeletal health to stimulate research and improve people's quality of life. President Bush has declared the years 2002-2011 National Bone and Joint Decade in support of these objectives.