Any Given Monday: Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them for Athletes, Parents, and Coaches - Based on My Life in Sports Medicineby James R. Andrews, Don Yaeger
From the most renowned sports surgeon in the country, “a gold mine of contemporary cautionary information for the sports-minded” (Kirkus Reviews) to promote the prevention of sports injuries, especially among young people—featured on CBS This Morning.
Every year more than 3.5 million children will require medical treatment/b>/i>/i>
From the most renowned sports surgeon in the country, “a gold mine of contemporary cautionary information for the sports-minded” (Kirkus Reviews) to promote the prevention of sports injuries, especially among young people—featured on CBS This Morning.
Every year more than 3.5 million children will require medical treatment for sports-related injuries, the majority of which are avoidable through proper training and awareness. Dr. James Andrews, an orthopedic surgeon, sports medicine pioneer, and consultant to some of the fiercest teams in college and professional sports, distills his practical wisdom and professional advice to combat a growing epidemic of injury among sports’ most vulnerable population: its young athletes.
Any Given Monday is a sport-by-sport guide to injury prevention and treatment, written specifically for the parents, grandparents, and coaches of young athletes. Dr. Andrews covers every major sport, including football, gymnastics, judo, basketball, tennis, baseball, cheerleading, wrestling, and more. From identifying eating disorders to preventing career-ending ACL tears and concussions, Dr. Andrews reveals how young athletes can maximize their talent and maintain a lifetime of health—both on the field and off.
"Dr. Andrews has long been recognized as a preeminent leader in sports medicine, and I have been fortunate to have him as my “go to” doctor throughout my career. Not only does he have a unique ability to truly understand athletes and the demands they place on their bodies to perform at the highest level, he also understands faith, family, and the balance we all need to live life to the fullest. This book belongs in the library of every parent and coach in the country."
"Dr. Andrews is certainly among the best, and the best athletes come to him. I could not have played 16 years in the NBA without him—and most importantly he’s always been my friend."
“Andrews, a pioneering orthopedic surgeon in his fifth decade of practicing sports medicine, is uniquely qualified to pen this type of medical sourcebook….A gold mine of contemporary cautionary information for the sports-minded.”
“Andrews offers quick recommendations for a wide variety of high-participation sports…. [Any Given Monday is] a great pass-around for parents and grandparents and demands to be read by youth coaches, trainers, and sports administrators who, hopefully, will heed Andrews’ call for change.”
Dr. James Andrews has one of those names you’ve read a million times. But you’ve never really heard what’s on his mind until now."
Both educational and entertaining, Any Given Monday includes anecdotes about Andrews’ remarkable career (he was a champion pole vaulter in his youth and later a successful yacht racer) as well as tips for coaches and trainers.
Parents who have kids in sports - any sport, on any level - need to pick up a copy of Dr. James Andrews' new book
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Any Given Monday
Approximately forty-five million children and adolescents are involved in organized athletics in the United States and, as I stated earlier, nearly three and a half million of them under the age of fourteen are treated for sports-related injuries each year, making athletics one of the leading health risks for children. The majority of injuries, of course, are relatively mild sprains, strains, and bruises, but a significant percentage will be more severe, with some even requiring hospitalization. What is even more troubling is that roughly 50 percent of all sports injuries are related to overuse, and studies show that at least 60 percent of overuse injuries can be prevented simply by employing a little common sense—and even more by taking just a few safety precautions. It must be the primary responsibility of the parents, grandparents, coaches, paramedical personnel, and young athletes themselves to help prevent these injuries the best they can.
These statistics are followed carefully by the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) and the Andrews Research & Education Institute (AREI) in Gulf Breeze, two organizations of which I am the chairman. Each year, as new numbers come in, it is a sobering experience for many reasons. Injuries certainly reduce participation in sports and fitness activities, thus contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic as well as other social misgivings. Some injuries can be career ending or even life limiting well before the child or teen has had a chance to pursue his or her dreams. Even less serious injuries can have long-term implications, as damage to joints in childhood contributes exponentially to the chances of developing arthritis later in life. Additionally, there is no question that the evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of youth sports injuries is expensive and can lead to lost time and productivity at work for parents. Recent reports have placed the costs associated with youth sports injuries between $2.5 billion and $3 billion annually.
As stated above, many of these sports-related youth injuries are preventable through educational programs at the grassroots level. I will discuss some of the more common youth sports and associated injuries and provide some information related to their prevention, including rule changes, safety equipment, and preseason and in-season conditioning programs.
Our statistics at the American Sports Medicine Institute indicate a five- to seven-fold increase in injuries in youth sports since 2000. Further statistics show that in high school alone, each year some two million injuries result in five hundred thousand doctor visits and approximately thirty thousand hospitalizations for treatment. The statistics for certain sports are particularly troubling.
Cheerleading, for example, is out of control. There are three million young cheerleaders in the United States, ranging from squads of preteens at local cheer gyms, to approximately four hundred thousand at the high school level, to the college cheerleaders you see on TV, smiling and leaping on the sidelines at football and basketball games. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) medical reports indicate that of all the insurance monies spent on treatment for college athletes across roughly ninety sports, fully 25 percent is for cheerleading injuries. This might not seem as dramatic a number when compared to the 57 percent of NCAA medical expenses spent on football; however, football has ten times the participation of cheerleading. The rate of emergency room visits for cheerleaders at any level has increased sixfold since 1981. In 2008 alone, roughly thirty thousand young women and men landed in the ER as a result of injuries sustained while cheering. During the twenty-six years between 1982 and 2008, there were seventy-three catastrophic injuries reported in cheerleading, with two deaths. Gymnastics, which incorporates many of the same tumbling passes and boasts similar numbers of participants, had a total of nine catastrophic injuries during that same period. That’s a pretty drastic difference. Clearly, something needs to be done to protect cheerleaders from increasingly common and increasingly serious injuries. Football, too, deserves a critical examination. In 2007 there were 920,000 players under the age of eighteen treated in emergency rooms for injuries.
One factor that contributes significantly to the rate of injury is specialization. In other words, children are pigeonholed into one sport fairly early on, which means that they have little variation in terms of the muscles and joints employed and skills practiced, which can lead to fatigue and a much higher rate of injury. And one of the main causes of early specialization is parents who stress the pursuit of one specific sport for the sake of gaining college scholarships and professional recruiting buzz. It should be noted, though, that the odds of a football player actually making it to the NFL—not as a starter or even taking the field at any point in his life, but just making it on a professional roster—is greater than 6,000 to 1.
I don’t mean to come down too hard on parents here; after all, we all want the best possible opportunities for our children. And most parents are very responsible in the emphasis they place on pursuing sports. But at some point, there needs to be a reality check. Ambitious parents and coaches need to understand that encouraging a child’s talent is one thing but controlling it or obsessing over it is quite another. Before you pin your future retirement plans on how well your child performs athletically, consider this: The National Federation of State High School Associations estimates that less than 0.1 percent of kids who participate in sports at school will receive a scholarship to continue that sport in college.
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) initiated the STOP Sports Injury Campaign in 2010 to prevent overuse and trauma injuries among young athletes. The STOP acronym, which stands for Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention, makes clear the organization’s intentions. As president of the society from 2009 to 2010, I expressed my desire to launch a national program for preventing injuries in youth sports. The AOSSM unanimously agreed that the time was right to begin our education campaign.
Founding partner organizations in the STOP Sports Injury Campaign include the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA), the Sports Physical Therapy Section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Safe Kids USA, and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS). Today there are more than 250 other local and national organizations that have taken the pledge to prevent youth sports injuries at the grassroots level.
When it comes to sports injury prevention, we must establish a priority in basic research principles. The STOP program’s mission is fourfold: Number one is to establish the extent of the problem. Number two is to identify the risk factors and the mechanism of the injuries. Number three is to develop preventive interventions. And number four is to evaluate the effects and results of those interventions from a scientific standpoint. The STOP program has all of these objectives in its mission and focus. The AOSSM has identified several areas of research that need to be undertaken to take prevention to a scientific conclusion and to be able to show definitive results.
The first high-priority proposal addresses the prevention of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injuries in young female athletes, who have a three to six times ACL injury rate when compared to their male counterparts. This study will emphasize “cutting” sports, which require a sudden change of direction or darting to one side while running, such as basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and volleyball. Cheerleading and gymnastics will also be included.
The second priority is the prevention of repeated concussions and related complications. Approximately two million to three million young athletes suffer concussions each year in America. A number of long-term studies have shown that repeated concussions have an impact on mental health later in life, especially among former athletes.
The third priority is related to overuse injuries of the shoulder and elbow and their prevention in youth baseball and youth softball for both pitchers and fielders. The number of young men and women who require surgical repair to their pitching arms because of overuse damage is on the rise. This is a serious problem and one that is especially close to my heart, as it is now one of the most common procedures I have to perform on young people. When I started in this career, I never imagined that it would become routine for a fifteen-year-old to have to undergo such drastic treatment.
In a study published in the September 2009 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers examined severe injuries broken down by specific sports and injury type. Researchers captured injury data during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 school years from one hundred nationally represented US high schools. Information was collected for various sports, including football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, wrestling, baseball, and softball. “Severe injury” was defined as any mishap that resulted in an athlete losing more than twenty-one days of sports participation; according to the study, over the course of those two years, severe injuries accounted for 14.9 percent of all high school sports–related injuries. After football injuries, the highest level of injury was reported in wrestling, followed by girls’ basketball and girls’ soccer. While no one was surprised that football emerged as number one, there were some unexpected findings. Among the directly comparable sports of soccer, basketball, and baseball/softball, girls actually sustained a higher severe injury rate than boys. There were also patterns in injury sites, with the knee sustaining a severe injury nearly 30 percent of the time, followed by the ankle at 12.3 percent and the shoulder at 10.9 percent. Additionally, 5 percent of the severe injuries recorded resulted directly from illegal player activity such as tripping or spear tackling. While ankle sprains still tend to be the most common “nonsevere” injury among young players, these findings highlighted the importance of finding ways to protect the knees from more traumatic damage, and suggested that not enough is being done to educate and protect young women athletes. According to this very important and revealing article, future studies should focus on risk factors to develop prevention and intervention. Decreasing sports-related injuries is critical to keep kids playing sports long-term and minimizing the health care cost both to the family and to the health care system itself.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, some 7.34 million athletes now participate in high school sports programs, up from 5.2 million just ten years ago. The boy-to-girl ratio is not quite even, although the number of girls participating in sports is on the rise: The total numbers are approximately 4.32 million boys compared to 3.02 million girls, yet the number of serious injuries in many girls’ sports is higher than the rate in comparable boys’ sports. This is certainly a cause for concern.
In light of these statistics, I’d like to make some general recommendations for athletes of both genders that I will elaborate on in part 2’s sports-specific chapters. The vast majority of sports medicine professionals, coaches, and trainers agree that training in the months prior to the sports season is critical to an athlete’s success. The old saying “Preparation is ninety-nine percent of execution” is certainly true in the athletic arena. A very successful preseason strength and conditioning program will dramatically decrease the risk of both minor and major injuries. It is the responsibility of coaches in all youth sports to educate their players in proper periodization on a twelve-month basis in preparation for a season. That is, fitness must begin prior to the first day of practice, and, ideally, some form of physical fitness should be maintained year-round, with training increasing gradually two to three months before the season starts. Statistics show that the majority of injuries occur in the first few weeks of a sports season due to inadequate preseason preparation.
It is also critical for coaches and players to realize that there must be a balance between work and rest. A young athlete should not work out at peak levels twelve months out of the year—especially not with an eye toward specializing in a specific sport. Overtraining always increases the risk for injury, especially in growing bodies. Therefore, athletes should not neglect off-season training, specifically cross-training and participating in other sports. But they should also be willing to take off a few weeks or a month from intense exercise each year in order to allow their body to rest. Low-impact activity should be pursued during that time, but the body needs a chance to recover and repair itself from the constant wear and tear of training.
Coaches should also be aware that the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that 62 percent of sports injuries occur during practice rather than in a game or match. This does make sense: although an athlete’s adrenaline tends to be higher in competitive settings—contributing to more aggressive play—the vast majority of his or her time is spent in practice versus actual time going head-to-head with another team. For that reason, practices should always be well supervised for safety of technique as well as the intensity of the workout.
No matter the sport, it is important to focus on general conditioning and core stability, as well as overall cardiovascular fitness and endurance through long-duration, low-intensity workouts. Cross-training during the off-season is especially important when participating in a predominantly one-sided sport, such as baseball. By pursuing different types of sports, young athletes can develop more complete musculature and hone other athletic skills to avoid fatiguing a specific part of the body.
Young athletes, particularly those who have not yet gone through puberty, should avoid overtraining and overuse, as the body is not fully equipped to rebuild muscles following workouts. I recommend that younger athletes follow a simple 10 percent rule: do not increase weight, training activities, mileage, or pace by more than 10 percent a week. This prevents stressing the body beyond capacity by allowing it to rest, rebuild, and recover. In fact, increasing training intensity too quickly can actually decrease high-level athletic activity.
It is essential for coaches to understand the basic principles related to preparing an athlete for a season. Thanks to Avery D. Faigenbaum, EdD, at the College of New Jersey, and Larry Meadors, PhD, at Sports Spectrum Training, here’s a list of twelve fundamentals for building young and healthy players, which the authors aptly entitle “The Coaches Dozen,” originally published in Strength and Conditioning Journal in 2010:
1. Young athletes are not miniature adults.
2. Value preparatory conditioning.
3. Avoid sports specialization before adolescence.
4. Enhance physical literacy.
5. Better to undertrain than to overtrain.
6. Focus on positive education.
7. Maximize recovery.
8. It is not what you take, it is what you do.
9. Get connected.
10. Make a long-term commitment.
11. There are no secrets.
12. Never stop learning.
Coaches and parents alike should remember that sports are meant to be fun, while facilitating a young athlete’s social development. Never push the training or make the competition so serious that the child feels stressed or comes to dread the activity. This can easily lead to burnout in the sport or in athletics in general. I also recommend avoiding “professionalism” in youth sports—that is, harping on how young athletes need to develop their talent if they ever want to make it in the pros, or obsessing over their training to the point of tunnel vision. Adolescents have plenty of time to develop into professional athletes if their talent and interest point them in that direction. Genetically, 99.9 percent of young athletes are not ready for such serious professionalism at a young age.
There are essentially two different types of injuries: acute injuries and overuse injuries. Acute injuries are the result of a single traumatic event. Common examples include wrist fractures, ankle sprains, shoulder dislocations, or hamstring muscle strains. Overuse injuries, on the other hand, usually occur over time, making them more challenging to diagnose and sometimes more difficult to treat, as the damage is often not as clearly defined as in acute injuries. They are usually a result of overtraining: repetitive microtrauma to tendons, bones, cartilage, and joints, such as shin splints or tennis elbow. Whenever an athlete trains for a sport, even as a child, he or she is trying to make the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the body stronger and more functional. Unfortunately, there is a very thin line between beneficial training and training that is ultimately detrimental to the body.
The process of breaking down and building up muscle has a fine balance as well. When is the soreness a good thing, meaning that the muscles were stretched and worked to the point of growing stronger? And when does it mean that the muscles were damaged and are struggling to repair themselves? Training errors tend to involve a rapid acceleration of the intensity, duration, or frequency of an activity. They are especially associated with specialization.
Parents, coaches, and athletes must remember that the goal is always to feel better, not worse. Although soreness is to be expected when working new muscles, and anyone is likely to feel winded when doing cardio conditioning, the pain should never be debilitating. A common philosophy in training for sports is that “more is better”: in other words, if pitching a ball twenty times is good, pitching it forty times is twice as good. That’s simply not true. “No pain, no gain” should have no place in youth sports. Young athletes should not participate with pain. Athletes should have an open dialogue with their coaches, parents, or other trusted adults regarding their pain patterns, as these may be early indications of overuse injuries.
When an imbalance between strength and flexibility occurs, the injury pattern for overuse injuries increases rapidly. Young athletes who are still developing and growing often have bony malalignment, which simply means that the bones are growing at a rate that temporarily puts them out of the normal position in relation to their joints. This condition makes young athletes even more prone to overuse injuries. Other factors include equipment (such as the type of running shoe or ballet shoe), whether the terrain is uneven, hard surfaces versus soft surfaces in training, and whether proper techniques are being taught and practiced. These are just a few of the reasons why expert, certified coaches are so important in bringing their knowledge and understanding of the safest and best possible practices to their teams.
Some guidelines for treating overuse injury include:
1. Cut back the intensity, duration, and frequency of an activity.
2. Adopt a hard/easy workout schedule to vary the intensity each day, and incorporate cross-training with other activities to maintain fitness levels.
3. Learn proper training and techniques from a qualified coach or athletic trainer.
4. Perform proper warm-up and cool-down activities before and after practicing. Flexibility stretches can be particularly helpful when combined with ballistic exercises that get the muscles ready for intense bursts of energy, such as squats or tossing a medicine ball. (See chapter 32 for more information and illustrations.)
5. Apply ice for minor aches and pains after any activity.
6. Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, as necessary. Communication between athletes, parents, and coaches is particularly important if symptoms persist, at which point a visit to a sports medicine specialist is in order.
7. Consult athletic trainers and physical therapists for guidelines about early recognition and treatment of suspected overuse.
Keeping our kids safe needs to be a team effort, with all involved parties pitching in. Parents, grandparents, coaches, trainers, and athletes should all work toward the brightest possible future for every young athlete: one that is healthy and active thanks to the safe decisions we make together now.
Meet the Author
James R. Andrews, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon in sports medicine and a pioneer in arthroscopic surgery. His patients and consultations include Albert Pujols, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Roger Clemens, John Smoltz, Charles Barkley, Jack Nicklaus, Hope Solo, Bo Jackson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and both Manning brothers. Sports Illustrated recently named him as one of the top forty most influential people in the NFL. He is the team doctor for Auburn University, the University of Alabama, the Washington Redskins, and the Tampa Bay Rays. He is a founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Andrews Research and Education Institute in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
Don Yaeger is a former associate editor for Sports Illustrated. He is the author of seven books and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Under the Tarnished Dome and the critically acclaimed Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL.
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