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Preventing Young Athletes from Striking Out Too Early 

 

April 27, 2010 

Sports injury campaign focuses on helping kids play safe and stay healthy

UC San Diego Health System has teamed up with the country’s leading sports medicine organizations and medical societies, along with professional athletes and business leaders, to participate in the STOP Sports Injuries campaign.

“Sports injuries at any age should not be taken lightly,” said Raul Coimbra, MD, PhD, FACS, chief of Trauma, Surgical Critical Care and Burns and Monroe E. Trout Professor of Surgery at UC San Diego Health System. “Any change in a young athlete’s behavior, vision, cognition, speech, or level of consciousness should set off an alarm bell and be addressed by a physician immediately.”

The STOP campaign will educate athletes, parents, trainers, coaches and health care providers about the rapid increase in youth sports injuries, the necessary steps to help reverse the trend, and the need to keep young athletes healthy. The STOP Sports Injuries campaign focuses on teaching proper prevention techniques and encouraging open communication between everyone involved in a young athlete’s life.

Sports injuries among young athletes are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimates that high school athletes account for two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations every year.  In younger children, typical injuries include bumps, bruises, strains, sprains and fractures, especially in the wrist and elbow.

“In teens we see more adult-like injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament tears and torn-cartilage in the knees, and shoulder dislocations,” said Catherine Robertson, MD, assistant clinical professor in the department of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at UC San Diego Health System. “These types of injuries may require surgery, take much longer to heal, and can have long-term consequences.”

The high rate of youth sports injuries is fueled by an increase in overuse and trauma injuries and a lack of attention paid to proper injury prevention. According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.

“In collegiate and professional baseball, pitch counts are highly regulated, but in youth leagues, this is often not the case,” said Robertson. “Young pitchers tend to get overuse injuries in their elbows and shoulders because no one is monitoring the amount of time they spend pitching or aware that there are pitch count restrictions.”

Sports concussions are especially problematic in those under 18 years of age because of “second-hit” or “second-impact” syndrome. If an athlete returns to play too soon and has not allowed the brain to fully heal, then a second blow to the head could result in a life-threatening situation.

The trauma division at UC San Diego Health System is working with the San Diego County Regional Trauma System’s Trauma Research & Education Foundation (TREF) to distribute concussion tool kits, entitled Head's Up - Concussion in High School Sports to North County Inland high school coaches. They will then follow-up to learn if the coaches found the kits helpful and how they used them.

Parents, coaches and trainers should utilize Internet resources, such as aclprevent.com, STOPSportsInjuries.org, and http://cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html  to learn more about how to prevent injuries in young athletes.

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Media Contact: Jackie Carr, 619-543-6163, jcarr@ucsd.edu

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