St. Elizabeth Sports Medicine Director Dr. Michael Miller doesn’t have to look at the calendar to know when it’s mid-July. He can tell practices have started by the sudden surge in young athletes coming into the sports medicine clinic with sports-related injuries.
“Our volume of patients goes way up starting around July 15,” Dr. Miller says. “The increased number of injuries is primarily a function of the increased number of young athletes that begin their fall sports seasons.
“By far and away the most common type of injury is the overuse injury involving bones, muscles and joints. Athletes sometimes do too much, too quickly, too soon and their bodies gradually break down. Examples of overuse injuries include: shin splints, tendonitis, stress fractures and knee cap pain. Proper training and conditioning over the summer may help reduce injuries in the fall.”
Many of those sudden onset injuries, like broken bones and sprains, also end up at Commonwealth Orthopaedics. Commonwealth Sports Medicine specialist, Dr. Matthew DesJardins, said they also see a surge in patient athletes at this time of year. Still, he says, a big concern for young athletes at this time of year doesn’t involve orthopaedics at all.
“We really get concerned at this time about the effects of the heat and dehydration, which can have serious medical complications,” says Dr. DesJardins.
“That is particularly the case for football players, who are wearing equipment which predisposes them to heat illness and dehydration. So we really need to remind everyone about that because most of the interventions for heat-related injuries must happen at the team and coaching level where they need to manage their practices in the heat.”
Concussion: Know the Symptoms
Another serious situation that calls for immediate cessation of play and attention by a physician is a concussion, an injury that statistics indicate happens to athletes as often as 3.8 million times a year. Both doctors stress that it’s essential that athletes, coaches and parents all know and respond early to the signs and symptoms of concussion.
“You do not have to have loss of consciousness to have a concussion,” says Dr. Miller.
“In fact, the majority of sports-related concussions don’t involve loss of consciousness. The symptoms include being dazed and confused initially, as well as blurry vision, dizziness, headache and maybe even a little nausea. They really just may feel they’re in a fog. And the new guidelines now say that if an athlete shows any signs or symptoms of a concussion, they must be taken immediately out of the game or practice and not allowed to return until they’re cleared by a medical doctor.”
A complete evaluation by a medical doctor is also something every student athlete should do before practices start in the first place. In fact, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association requires a yearly pre-participation examination.
The bottom line for safeguarding the health of student athletes then is really that a little awareness and preparation now will go a long way toward ensuring a youngster stays healthy and on the field long after the heat of summer is gone.
“When their athletes are letting them know they have pain and soreness, they need to listen,” said Dr. Miller. “The earlier you can pick up an overuse injury the less likely it will go on and become a chronic problem where they end up missing more in the long run.”
Written by Shelly Whitehead
Editor’s Note: This is a special advertising supplement, paid for by St. Elizabeth Healthcare