A national effort to prevent, recognize and treat the long-term consequences of sports-overuse and traumatic injuries in young athletes is quickly picking up steam. This month, STOP Sports Injuries (the acronym stands for "Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention") has enlisted several new supporters, including the California Athletic Trainers' Association, Dixie Softball Inc. and the Youth Football Coaches Association.
Launched this spring by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and a host of other professional medical organizations, STOP Sports Injuries aims to arm coaches, athletes, parents and other concerned individuals with accurate information and educational tools. "Our growing support will dramatically increase the campaign's ability to help keep youth athletes healthy, safe and out of the operating room," says James Andrews, a renowned sports surgeon who also is president of the AOSSM and co-chair of STOP Sports Injuries.
A recent report in Sports Illustrated highlighted two of Andrews' rehab patients - Chicago Cubs pitcher Angel Guzman, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in March, and Tommy Ventura, a 17-year-old right-handed hurler at Archbishop Spalding High in Severn, Md., who tore his rotator cuff during a team workout. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high school athletes alone account for an estimated two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations every year, and children between the ages of 5 and 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals. "Regardless of whether the athlete is a professional, an amateur, an Olympian or a young recreational athlete, the number of sports injuries is increasing, but the escalation of injuries in kids is the most alarming," Andrews says.
The American College of Sports Medicine, however, estimates that more than half of all youth sports injuries are preventable. Injury-prevention tip sheets for 12 sports - plus documents addressing concussions and overuse injuries, as well as additional resources from STOP HQ- can be found here.