BLOG: Time is right to make a major impact on the prevention of youth sports injuries
My first Healio.com/Orthopedics blog is to introduce and describe the STOP Sports Injuries program. Under the direction and leadership of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, the STOP Sports Injuries program was developed during the past 4 to 5 years as a comprehensive public outreach program. The program focuses on the importance of sports safety, specifically as it relates to overuse and trauma injuries in youth sports, for some 29 different sports.
The focus of the STOP Sports Injuries program is to reduce injury and highlight how playing safe and without overuse can increase a young athlete’s career, improve teamwork, increase fitness, reduce obesity and create a lifelong love of exercise and healthy activity. When we use the word “STOP,” which is an acronym for Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention in Youth Sports, for this national initiative, we certainly did not want to imply that we are against youth sports. Our emphasis is just the opposite. Our goal is to keep young athletes out of the operating room and on the playing field.
Youth sports injury phenomenon
Youth sports injury phenomenon has increased 7- to 10-fold since 2000. There are 30 to 45 million youth athletes in the United States. This represents a tremendous increase in the sheer number of our youth participating in sports, particularly young females, since Title 9 was implemented. Statistics show that sports is the leading cause of adolescent injury (CDC, 2002) and youth sports injury has reached epidemic proportions. The reasons for this phenomenon are:
• Young athletes do too much, too fast and too soon;
• Youth sports injuries are now common; and
• Recognition that 30% to 50% of all youth sports injuries are secondary to overuse. It is estimated that 60% of overuse injuries can be prevented primarily by education and common sense.
Some people may consider young athletes not to be very vulnerable to injury, however, that is certainly not true. Youth are particularly at-risk for injury because of improper technique, ill-fitting equipment, training errors, coach/parental pressure, failure of early injury recognition, a shift to single-sport specialization, and inherent musculoskeletal imbalance. In reality, these problems are magnified because the younger the athlete is, the more vulnerable he or she may be for injury.
The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), a world leader in sports medicine research and education, has taken a lead to curtail the escalation of injury in youth sports. As an organization, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also has been heavily involved in the promotion of the effort. They were one of some 900 collaborative partners associated with the AOSSM and its STOP Sports Injuries program.
Make an impact on prevention
As orthopedic surgeons, we all agree the time is right to finally make a major impact on prevention. It is our responsibility to get involved – all of us and all of you. So where do we go from here?
Obviously, the AOSSM is carrying the banner for this youth sports initiative. The goals of this AOSSM youth sports initiative are to raise public awareness; mobilize the AOSSM membership at national and local levels; develop educational materials; and create a national resource center.
As I have already indicated, the AOSSM is developing collaborative partners and mobilizing its expertise and talent throughout major sports organizations, major medical centers as well as sports clinics and sports authorities. Some of the sports organizations involved in this initiative, including new sanctioning bodies, are Little League Baseball, U.S. Youth Soccer and others. Major professional athletic associations are also heavily involved in the prevention of injuries in youth sports, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Women's National Basketball Association, and the U.S. Olympics. A number of corporate partners are also involved in the initiative. We have had tremendous support from the media, including ESPN, Fox Sports, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and others.
How do we move forward? Obviously, this is not an easy task. The national initiative is well underway. I also recommend readers visit its website, www.stopsportsinjuries.org, to find inclusive information about all of youth sports. The national multi-year educational initiative will include public service announcements, posters, DVDs, brochures, fact sheets, electronic newsletters, an interactive website and the use of social media.
I must end this introduction to the STOP Sports Injuries program by saying a grassroots outreach is essential for the success of the national initiative. I ask that all of you get involved, too.
James R. Andrews, MD, is a founding partner and medical director of the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Gulf Breeze, Fla. He also is a co-founder of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Ala. He can be reached at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, 1040 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., Suite 203, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561; email: email@example.com.