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Concussions

Concussions & Young Athletes

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Sports Performance

Daily Dose

Athletes & Injuries

1.30 to read

I see a lot of athletic teens, and while many of them participate in several sports more and more tweens and teens are “specializing” in one sport. In other words, they may only play soccer or basketball, or be a gymnast or a dancer.  In some cases they practice or compete almost 365 days a year. (I think they often are only off on the 6 holidays/year that our office is closed!).  They too work really hard.

I have recently had more than a handful of elite athletes, especially girls who are gymnasts, cheerleaders and dancers, who have come to me complaining of back pain.  In most cases lower back pain is musculoskeletal in nature and will resolve with some anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen), alternating ice and heat to the back and a few days of rest. But in some cases the back pain worsens, especially with activity and further work up is required.

In several cases the ongoing back pain is due to a spondylolysis, which is a fracture of the pars interarticularis of the vertebrae. It is akin to a stress fracture in other areas.  It is most commonly found in the pediatric population and is thought to be due to mechanical stress of the trunk with repetitive flexion, hyperextension and trunk rotation.  All of those maneuvers are the “usual” for a cheerleader doing back flips or a gymnast doing exercises with hyperextension.  Athletes who are into weight lifting (seems they all do this now) and even children who carry heavy backpacks may be at risk for a “spondy”.

The spondylolysis may show up on a plain X-ray of the back or may require a CT scan to see the fracture.  

In our community there is some difference of opinion on how best to treat the condition.  Unfortunately, it seems that the best treatment is rest which may be for weeks-months.  This is NOT what they competitive gymnast or star football player wants to hear.  

Once the pain has resolved a structured physical therapy program seems to be of benefit as well.  If conservative management for over a year does not help some orthopedists would recommend surgery. Again, there are several different views as to the benefits of surgery in this age group.

But if your child has persistent lower back pain that worsens with activity and hyperextension you should think about this condition and talk to your doctor. It is becoming more prevalent as our kids compete at higher and higher levels.  

Your Teen

Concussions: Boys and Girls May Have Different Symptoms

1.45

The findings suggest that boys are more likely to report amnesia and confusion/disorientation, whereas girls tend to report drowsiness and greater sensitivity to noise more often.A new study of high school athletes, finds that boys and girls who suffer concussions, may differ in their symptoms. The findings suggest that boys are more likely to report amnesia and confusion/disorientation, whereas girls tend to report drowsiness and greater sensitivity to noise more often. "The take-home message is that coaches, parents, athletic trainers, and physicians must be observant for all signs and symptoms of concussion, and should recognize that young male and female athletes may present with different symptoms," said R. Dawn Comstock, an author of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus. More than 60,000 brain injuries occur among high school athletes every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although more males than females participate in sports, female athletes are more likely to suffer sports-related concussions, the researchers note. For instance, girls who play high school soccer suffer almost 40 percent more concussions than their male counterparts, according to NATA. The findings suggest that girls who suffer concussions might sometimes go undiagnosed since symptoms such as drowsiness or sensitivity to noise "may be overlooked on sideline assessments or they may be attributed to other conditions," Comstock said. For the study, Comstock and her co-authors at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, examined data from an Internet-based surveillance system for high school sports-related injuries. The researchers looked at concussions involved in interscholastic sports practice or competition in nine sports (boys' football, soccer, basketball, wrestling and baseball and girls' soccer, volleyball, basketball and softball) during the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years at a representative sample of 100 high schools. During that time, 812 concussions (610 in boys and 202 in girls) were reported. During the first year of the study, the surveillance system included only the primary concussion symptom for each athlete. In the second year, high school athletic trainers were able to record all the symptoms reported by the concussed athlete. In both years, headache was the most commonly reported symptom and no difference was noted between the sexes. However, in year one, 13 percent of the males reported confusion/disorientation as their primary symptom versus 6 percent of the girls. Also in the first year, amnesia was the primary symptom of 9 percent of the males but only 3 percent of the females. In the second year, amnesia and confusion/disorientation continued to be more common among males than females. In addition, 31 percent of the concussed females complained of drowsiness versus 20 percent of the males, and 14 percent of the females said they were sensitive to noise, compared with just 5 percent of the males. Concussion researcher Gerard A. Gioia, chief of pediatric neuropsychology at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., called the findings "relatively subtle" and "at best hypothesis-generating, meaning they are suggestive but in no way conclusive." Gioia said one of the study's limitations is that the reporting system didn't explain about how the injuries occurred. "The presence of increased amnesia and confusion, two early injury characteristics, in the males suggests that the injuries between the males and females may have been different," he said. Future studies will likely address this theory, said Comstock, now that the surveillance system has been expanded to include much more detailed information. Preliminary data suggest, for instance, that football players tend to get hit on the front of the head, while girls who play soccer or basketball often suffer a blow to the side of the head, she said. The findings will also be published in the January issue of the Journal of Athletic Training.

Daily Dose

Why Kids Should Wear a Helmet

1:30 to read

Accidents in children are always an ever present problem. From scraped knees, to bumped heads, broken arms and stitches there are always injuries in our children. Accidents in children are always an ever present problem. From scraped knees, to bumped heads, broken arms and stitches there are always injuries in our children. Thank goodness most of them are traumatic at the moment, usually more to the parent than the child, and the child quickly recovers and is on to the next thing.

One way to help protect our children is by using protective "gear" when appropriate. We are really good about using car seats, child proofing houses and pools for the toddler set, but as the children get older there are other dangers lurking around with the bicycles, scooters, skateboards and the newest rip stick. All of these "wheeled" devices pose dangers for falls and "wipe outs" that may lead to things as mild as cuts and scrapes or as serious as a head injury. The hardest thing to get a school age child to understand is the meaning of the word ACCIDENT.

They do not understand that even if they think they have mastered the bike or rip stick, an accident can happen at any time. When I am talking to the elementary school set and ask them about mastering a bicycle on two wheels they are so proud to tell me of their accomplishments. But when I ask them what they are wearing on their head while riding, I don't always hear "a helmet". Children and adults on bicycles need to wear helmets at all times. I see kids riding their bikes to school (great exercise), but not a helmet in sight on their head. Don't let your child on their bicycles without a helmet, insist on a helmet just like a seat belt. If they become accustomed to always putting on a helmet before hopping on that bike or skateboard it will just become second nature. If they choose not to wear their helmet, then put the bike in "time out" for awhile to let them know that you are not going to allow them to ride without protection. Knee pads and wrist guards are great, but we can usually set a wrist fracture, or stitch up a knee. A head injury is another story!

That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow.

Daily Dose

ACL Injuries in Young Athletes

1.30 to read

I have many young patients that are regular soccer players and many of them are adolescent girls. A recent article in the British Medical Journal caught my eye. The title “Simple Warm-Up Program Prevents Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries”. 

In my early days of training, I was taught that children rarely had ligamentous injuries especially involving their knees. Boy has that information changed over the years! I can’t even count the number of teenage patients of mine who have had serious knee injuries, many requiring surgeries and some injuries ending their athletic careers.  

We now know that adolescent female soccer players experience anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee injuries at a rate that is twice that of their male counterparts.  This study looked at whether these serious injuries can be prevented. 

4,600 females between the ages of 12 - 17 years participated in the study. Two-thirds were instructed in how to perform a 15 minute warm up program focusing on new control and core stability. This consisted of 5 minutes of jogging followed by six exercises (one-legged knee squat, two-legged knee squat, lunge, bench press, jump/landing technique, and pelvic lift).  The program was completed twice weekly during soccer season and progressed through 4 levels of difficulty. 

 

The outcome? Seven players in the intervention group, and 14 in the control group experienced ACL injuries. The rate of ACL injury was 64% lower in the intervention group. Pretty impressive! 

So, a simple warm up program which is easy to institute can prevent ACL injuries in young female soccer players.  It would be interesting to see another study looking at whether these same warm up programs can be applied to male soccer players as well as to athletes in other sports (basketball and softball) where knee injuries are common. 

These exercises seem to help minimize lateral trunk movement and knee valgus (knock knees) which are risk factors for ACL injuries. Might be worth starting this program in your young athlete! 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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Concussions

Daily Dose

Twisted Neck?

1:30 to read

Under the heading of “continuing to learn” every day…comes a new case.

 

A patient of mine who is 4 years old was playing with his brother the other morning while his mother was making their breakfast. He was a “well child” and woke up in a good mood, ready to eat and go to preschool.  She could see the boys playing while she was cooking and then suddenly the 4 year old started to scream and cry that his “neck hurt”.  At first she thought “he was pretending or over reacting” as there did not overtly seem to be anything wrong. The only thing she noticed is that he refused to turn his neck and held his head in an awkward position.

 

He continued to cry and actually scream - so she tried to calm him down and gave him some ibuprofen as well. Despite this he would not move his neck and was unconsolable, to the point that she almost took him to the ER but instead she brought him to the office.  He was noted to be crying and seemed uncomfortable and refused to move his neck at all.  His exam was otherwise normal. Even with careful questioning there was no history of trauma. He had slept through the night before this had occurred. He had a cold several weeks before, but had since improved. He did not have a fever.

 

He seemed to be in such pain that he was sent for neck X-rays which were read as normal. But he continued to be miserable….so who do you call?? 

 

I spoke to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and he said he really did not have any ideas. Next call, the pediatric neurosurgeon. After hearing the symptoms he immediately said that he thought this little boy had “rotatory dislocation/subluxation” of the two upper cervical vertebrae in his neck (C-1 and C-2). He explained to me that in most cases the displacement resolves spontaneously, but in some cases the child continues to be uncomfortable as there is associated spasm of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which causes the torticollis. (twisted neck).It may be seen in children after a recent upper respiratory infection and is then called Grisel Syndrome.

 

Treatment for the acute condition…pain control and muscle relaxation.  This was all news to me and I had to go to textbook (online of course) to even read about the condition.  The neurosurgeon walked me through treatment and the child was sent home on a very low dose of valium and continued ibuprofen. When I spoke to the mother later that evening the child was already more comfortable and had started to move his neck. 

 

I called her the following morning and she said that he had not required any further valium and slept well and was actually on his way to preschool! WOW….I was thrilled he was better so quickly and that I was that much “smarter”. Wonder if I will ever see rotatory subluxation of the cervical vertebra again? I’ll be ready.

Your Child

Kids Who Specialize In One Sport Have More Injuries

Kids who came to the clinic with injuries played organized sports an average of 11 hours a week, compared with fewer than nine hours in the uninjured group. Although the researchers did not specifically look at this, Jayanthi said he has noticed that more highly specialized sports such as tennis, gymnastics and dance tend to be linked to more severe overuse injuries.Because a child’s body is still growing, children who specialize in only one sport suffer repetitive injuries more often, a new study says.

In fact, kids are twice as likely to get hurt –playing just one sport- as those who play multiple sports said Dr. Neeru Jayanthi, medical director of primary care sports medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "We saw a pretty significant difference with this intensity of training, along with specialization," said Jayanthi. The findings are slated to be presented Monday at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in Salt Lake City. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary. "It's been accepted for the last five years or so that kids who are not super-specific do better. They're cross-trained, so they're conditioned for other movements," said Dr. Kory Gill, an assistant professor at Texas A&;M Health Science Center College of Medicine. Jayanith’s research team had done earlier studies on 519 junior tennis players and found that the kids who only played tennis were more likely to get hurt. Jayanthi wanted to see if the same findings extended to other sports. "As a physician, you get frustrated seeing kids come in with injuries that keep them out for two to three months. It's devastating," said Jayanthi, who recently saw a young gymnast with a knee injury that will keep her off the mat for at least three months. Here, the researchers looked at 154 young athletes, average age 13, who played a variety of sports. Eighty-five of the participants came to the clinic for treatment for a sports injury, while 69 were just getting sports physicals. The investigation ranked each athlete on how specialized they were, basing the score on factors like how often they trained in one sport, whether they had given up other sports to practice just one, and if they trained 8 months a year or more to compete more than 6 months a year on one sport. What they discovered was that 60.4 percent of the athletes who had been injured were specialized in one sport, compared with only 31.3 percent who came in for physicals. Kids who came to the clinic with injuries played organized sports an average of 11 hours a week, compared with fewer than nine hours in the uninjured group. Although the researchers did not specifically look at this, Jayanthi said he has noticed that more highly specialized sports such as tennis, gymnastics and dance tend to be linked to more severe overuse injuries. Why did these injuries occur? "One reason is repetitive use of the same muscle group and stressors to growing areas, for example, the spine," explained Jayanthi, who stressed that the findings were preliminary. His team, in collaboration with Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, plans to enroll more athletes in follow-up research, and those athletes will be evaluated every six months for three years, to look more closely at how intense training can affect a young athlete's body during growth spurts. "Second is exposure risk," he added. "If you're getting really good at one sport, the intensity increases because you are getting better. People are developing adult-type sports skills in a child's body. The growing body probably doesn't tolerate this." Younger children -- those who have not entered high school -- tend to be especially vulnerable as their bodies are still growing, said Gill, who recommended that kids cross-train and condition for other movements, or just play another sport. "I tell parents to let kids be kids and play multiple sports," he said. "See what they're good at and what they enjoy." By high school, when bodies are more mature, specializing is safer, he added. When children play different sports in different seasons, they are using a wide range of motions and muscles. But when they begin playing one sport year-round, the risk of overuse injuries increases.

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