Staying in the Game

Rest resolves most youth sports injuries, but specialization can lead to surgery


Published:

Photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

If you have a child who excels at a favorite sport, you’ve probably found yourself caught up in the busy world of travel and club sports — high-level teams designed to maximize performance and exposure for your budding star athlete.

Before you know it, your son or daughter is playing for multiple teams, traveling to tournaments, practicing constantly and even taking private lessons. For many families, the end game is to land a college athletic scholarship. But, oftentimes, injuries are the more likely outcome — at least in the short term.

With increased specialized sports participation comes the likelihood of overuse injuries, and the cause is obvious to orthopedic doctors. Many kids today “specialize” in one sport, rather than play a variety of sports in different seasons. As a result, these athletes stress their growing bodies in the same joints and muscles without enough downtime. The good news is that most injuries to young athletes are easily treated with rest.

All You Need is … Rest

Dr. William Hage, M.D., specializes in arthroscopic treatments for knee and shoulder injuries at EmergeOrtho, which has multiple locations throughout the Triangle. He estimates that 90 percent of the injuries he treats are sports-specific. Baseball players usually suffer from shoulder and elbow pain in the throwing arm, while soccer players often deal with inflammation around the knee and heel.

“I see so much more of that because kids are playing the same sport all year round and not switching gears,” Hage says. “Trying to tell the parents that that’s the source of the problem as well as the key to healing is the challenge. They’re afraid they are missing some opportunity for their kid to move up the ranks.”

Hage says he spends a lot of time trying to convince parents and kids that time on the sidelines is the only way to heal completely.

“It sometimes takes six to eight weeks of rest or modified rest, where they are still participating,” he says. “In baseball, maybe you’re still hitting or taking fielding practice, but you’re not pitching. In soccer, do the drills, but maybe you don’t need to play in the scrimmages. The outcomes if you rest are amazing. Kids heal incredibly well almost every time. If you don’t rest, and you push through the pain, usually kids just break down.”

When Surgery Becomes Necessary

Some injuries do require surgery to get back in the game, whether they are caused by overuse or an acute traumatic injury, such as a collision or a stressful movement. Baseball pitchers are vulnerable to stretching and tearing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow, which requires a ligament reconstruction procedure known as Tommy John surgery. Athletes who play cutting and pivoting sports such as basketball, football and soccer are prone to tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee, which also requires surgery to return to sports.

So what can you expect if your child needs to go under the knife to get back in the game? The surgeries that treat most routine sports injuries have been in place for many years, and they typically return the athlete to full strength. While these procedures haven’t undergone significant innovations in recent years, there have been some advances that make the process easier on the patient.

“Surgeries in general are becoming more minimally invasive,” says Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein, M.D., a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon for Duke Health. “All these procedures on adolescents are outpatient procedures. They’re going home the same day.”

While those short-term improvements make recovery a bit easier, the length of recovery has not necessarily diminished. Wittstein says that in some cases, the time it takes to return to a sport after surgery has increased “because people recognize the risk of re-injury. For ACL tears, we know the risk of re-injury is lower if you return to sport in no sooner than nine months. People used to return to basketball and soccer at six months after an ACL tear. The problem is patience and investing in one’s future versus immediate satisfaction.”

Keep in mind that overuse — throwing too many pitches in baseball, for example — is not the only cause of injuries. Most knee injuries are the result of twisting, awkward landings and the stress of directional change on the joint. So, the more often you play, the more you put yourself at risk.

“These are not necessarily just overuse injuries, they’re just exposure-related,” Wittstein says. “If you have more exposures to cutting and pivoting activity, you’re probably more likely to have a moment where something like that occurs.”

If your child is determined to play a particular sport throughout the year, Wittstein suggests following a preventive injury exercise program that emphasizes balance, flexibility and strength. And when the physical demands of playing the games start taking a toll on your child, take control of the situation.
“Do not overbook them,” she says. “And parents need to communicate with the coaches. You really have to stand your ground.”

Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections

There are some relatively new treatments for healing sports injuries, such as platelet-rich plasma injections. This procedure involves injecting one’s own treated blood into an injured area to promote healing and reduce pain and inflammation. Dr. William Hage, M.D., at EmergeOrtho has used the treatment on adults with tennis elbow, but he does not recommend the procedure for adolescents.

“It’s not something I have done in kids because, number one, kids heal incredibly fast anyway; and, number two, kids hate needles. The idea of doing that with a kid is a little off the standard of care. And frankly, it’s still in a very early, experimental phase.”

ACL Injury Prevention Seminar

Join Duke Sports Medicine specialists for a seminar on ACL injury prevention Sept. 30, 2018, 5-6 p.m., at Soccer Genome, 9101 Durant Rd., Raleigh. Parents, coaches and athletes are invited to see presentations on ACL injury prevention and concussion management. Demonstrations and a Q&A session follow. This event is being hosted by Wake County Sports Medicine Providers:

  • Dr. Jocelyn Ross Wittstein, M.D.
  • Dr. Tally E. Lassiter Jr., M.D., MHA
  • Melissa Raddatz, MSN, FNP-BC
  • Dr. Jason Lee, M.D.

 Register at evite.me/H52PzZGUAV.


Kurt Dusterberg is a freelance writer in Apex. He is the Carolina Hurricanes correspondent for nhl.com and author of the book, “Journeymen: 24 Bittersweet Tales of Short Major League Sports Careers.

 

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Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
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Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
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  Meet at the Waterwise Garden (first parking lot on right) Join our bird enthusiast, Vernon, for an easy walk while looking and listening for our feathered friends. Discover...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture, and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us anytime during the program time to...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

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