As 2010 comes to an end and 2011 begins, people across Charleston are making resolutions to improve themselves. While I do have personal goals for the new year, I thought it might be fun to list changes I’d like to see in sports to keep athletes healthy. Some of these ideas deserve more attention, so don’t be surprised if I write about these ideas in future columns.
Stop glamorizing big hits in football
We’ve all been to football games where a defensive player makes a huge hit and the crowd roars in delight. That’s human nature, and I don’t expect that to change. We can hope, though, that the television coverage doesn’t promote those tackles. ESPN’s professional football coverage used to feature a segment called “Jacked Up!” The problem is that middle and high school players try to emulate those professionals and deliver similar hits. With poor tackling techniques that you often see at these levels, fatal or life-changing head and neck injuries can occur.
Put athletic trainers at every school
Most large high schools have athletic trainers to assess injuries on the field or court and determine if the athlete can return to play or needs to see a doctor. Unfortunately, smaller schools, both public and private, often don’t have athletic trainers. Or they might only have a doctor or trainer come just for football games. But injuries occur in sports other than football, and they occur in practices during the week as well. I have far too many high school athletes come in to my office weeks or even months after an injury who tell me that there was no one at the school who could evaluate the injury and tell them whether or not they should play. Putting trainers in every school might be an issue that should be directed toward state or local governments, but schools can also work with sports medicine programs in their area to get athletic trainer/physician coverage.
Don’t be “those parents”
A huge percentage of injuries in youth sports are caused by overuse. Kids’ bodies aren’t able to withstand hours of repetitive stress from throwing or other motion for hours each day, day after day, for years with little rest. And one of the factors contributing to this overuse is too much pressure from parents. Parents need to worry less about their 8- or 10-year-old athletes getting a college scholarship or making the pros and instead encourage proper mechanics and technique, learning the rules of the sport, and simply having fun. Ironically, in my experience, parents who come with their injured children and make a point of telling me that they aren’t “those parents” almost always turn out to be “those parents.”
Promote the STOP Sports Injuries campaign
(Disclosure: I am a member of the Public Relations committee for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and write a monthly post for the STOP Sports Injuries blog.) The STOP Sports Injuries campaign was created as a collaboration of six sports medicine and medical organizations to try to raise awareness of the huge increase in youth sports injuries. The campaign offers tips for athletes, parents, coaches, and medical professionals to decrease injuries. Along with a long list of current and former athletes, physicians supporting the campaign have been trying to promote it in the media and to sports teams and organizations. Please join us and pledge to keep young athletes healthy.