New Research Confirms Youth Athletes Face Significant Injury Risks

For Immediate Release

New Research Confirms Youth Athletes Face Significant Injury Risks
Leading sports orthopaedist discusses dangers, offers schools free Certified Athletic Trainer to help coaches, student athletes prevent sports injuries and minimize their impact

Greenwich, CT, November 2007 When they take the field, America’s youth athletes have far more to worry about than just their performance or the final score. Several recent studies concur that student athletes are at serious risk of sustaining a sports injury during practice or competition, and for more children and teens than ever, those injuries are serious ones. While staying active and playing organized sports are important in promoting physical and social well-being during childhood, experts are urging improvements in safety measures to protect student athletes.

With 1.4 million injuries reported on the sports fields every year, many of which are preventable youth athletes clearly need more advanced training in strategies to avoid injuries and to minimize their impact when they occur, says Kevin Plancher, MD, a leading sports orthopaedist in the New York metropolitan area and founder of the Orthopaedic Foundation for Active Lifestyles.

Addressing and reducing the numbers
Dr. Plancher points to several recent reports that indicate youth sports are riskier than they should be. For instance, findings reported in July from the Sports Medicine Institute at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago reveal that, although college football players have higher overall injury rates than their high school counterparts, high school players are far likelier to sustain serious injuries. What’s more, students tendencies to specialize in one sport early on, and to play it year-round, or to play multiple sports throughout each season of the school year, have led to an unprecedented rate of overuse injuries among youth athletes.

Childrens bodies are often physiologically unprepared to handle such prolonged intensity, Dr. Plancher advises. He notes, for example, that even high school athletes do not have the muscle mass of collegiate or adult athletes. In addition, the growth plates at the ends of the long bones in the body do not fully calcify until adulthood, making them softer and more prone to fractures in childhood. Finally, the human body achieves optimum physical conditioning when periods of physical activity are followed by periods of rest, during which the muscles build and strengthen. Without rest periods, muscles and ligaments are easily fatigued and prone to injury particularly when young athletes lack the skills or awareness of proper methods for conditioning and competition.

Dr. Plancher points out that many of these factors can be minimized with high quality training. Providing students with expert coaches who can teach them, for instance, safe techniques for tackling, running, jumping and falling is so critical to helping these athletes protect themselves from preventable injuries like muscle or ligament sprains and broken bones, Dr. Plancher explains. Just as important, however, is the role of the Certified Athletic Trainer on the field during practices and games, he adds.

Certified Athletic Trainers may be key to fewer sports injuries
In a 2006 study sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), data was collected from 100 high schools to determine current injury rates among student athletes. Yet, many experts believe the results underestimate the actual number of young people who are hurt during practices or games. Why? Because the data came from high schools with Certified Athletic Trainers indicating that their programs were safer than those at schools without Athletic Trainers. In fact, several scholastic sports and medical associations have recommended that a Certified Athletic Trainer be present at every sports practice and competition at the high school level.

Some schools believe that simply having a medical professional, such as a nurse or general practitioner, on the field is sufficient to ensure the safety of players, Dr. Plancher advises. However, Certified Athletic Trainers have better expertise in the specifics of biophysics and the musculoskeletal system, a sharper understanding of how injuries affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and bones, and more experience in evaluating the severity and best first response to an injury, he says. In addition, a Certified Athletic Trainer has the expertise to coach kids on how to play in a way that allows them to maximize their performance while preventing injuries from occurring in the first place.

To address the need at the local level, OFALS provides the services of its Certified Athletic Trainer, Hunter Greene, to Fairfield County, CT schools free of charge for high school athletic programs. Greene brings expertise in injury assessment, treatment, rehabilitation, casting, bracing, sport-specific strength and conditioning, exercise physiology, surgical management of orthopaedic injuries, postoperative care, and sports medicine-related research. Prior to joining Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, he provided athletic training services for professional sports teams, including the U.S. Mens Soccer Team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also has worked with NBA players, tennis professionals and several track and field Olympians. Greene’s scholastic experience includes work at the University of Arkansas, University of Central Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Emory University, and many high schools. Greene is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, where he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Athletic Training in 2003. He earned his Masters Degree in Exercise Science from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. For more information or to schedule his services, contact OFALS at 203.869.2002 or visit www.ofals.org.

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