June 12, 2007
I Know My Kid Can't Walk, But Can She Play Next Week?
Parents need to keep in mind what overuse injuries can mean for children: missed school, bench time when their team plays, hours of painful physical therapy and, in very serious cases, surgery and rehab. And injuries kids get today can cause lifelong ailments, including chronic pain, osteoarthritis, tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis and shin splints, and may require surgery when they're adults.
The saddest fact is that most overuse injuries are preventable. Dr. John P. DiFiori , associate professor and chief of the Division of Sports Medicine at UCLA's Department of Family Medicine, who has studied overuse injuries in young athletes for several years, told the Salt Lake Tribune that young athletes have a better chance of avoiding overuse injuries if they avoid heavy training loads and early sport-specific training and take adequate rest periods.
"An emphasis on one sport under the age of 10 should be avoided," said DiFiori. "Parents are so focused on winning even when their children are
8, 9 and 10 years old because they think it will give them an extra edge to get a college scholarship."
The hardest pill to swallow, for kids and some parents, is the need for rest — rest between seasons, rest during the week and rest after an injury.
Kremchek, the Cincinnati Reds' orthopedic surgeon, told the Cincinnati Enquirer, "Just today, I had a 9-year-old girl in my office and she could barely walk. Her foot and ankle hurt her so badly. She plays soccer on three teams, and I said, 'We'll put you in a boot for three weeks.' The first thing the father says is: 'We've got the championships in a week. Can she play in a week?' "I said, 'You've got to be kidding me.' I think once the dad realized what he had said, he took a step back. But that's the mentality you're dealing with."
DaSilva, of Columbia, S.C., knows what to say to parents who think taking six months off to rehabilitate after a serious injury will kill their child's potential college scholarship or professional sports career. First, he reminds them that very few young athletes ever reach those levels. Then, "I tell them if that child was meant to be the next [pro pitching great] Greg Maddux, he's still going to be the next Greg Maddux even if he takes the fall season off."