More Play May Lead To More Pain for Many Young Athletes
When Sutter Health sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon Thomas Merchant, M.D., began practicing 25 years ago, it was nearly unheard of for a high school student to need elbow surgery to repair a damaged ligament. Now, he says, times have changed.
“While we don’t see this type of injury daily, it’s certainly not rare,” Dr. Merchant said. “The highly competitive nature of youth sports is a growing trend, and as the number of young athletes specializing in single sport year-round increases, so do their injuries.”
Across the nation, more than 3.5 million children age 14 and under get medical treatment for sports-related injuries each year—many of these injuries preventable and almost half of all injuries due to overuse. Physicians say the escalation of overuse injuries in young athletes, including shoulder and knee problems, is alarming.
“While year-round training has been common in gymnastics, tennis and swimming, we now see it in soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball and other sports, resulting in more injuries at younger ages than ever before,” Dr. Merchant said. “Whether jumping, swinging, pitching or kicking—frequent and repeated movements over time cause a substantial number of the injuries we treat.”
During the month of May, physicians throughout the Sutter Health network recognize National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and raise awareness to prevent overuse injuries in young athletes.
“Sports are a great way for kids to exercise and learn about teamwork and discipline—all while having fun,” said Dr. Merchant. “If today’s young athletes, their families and coaches have the correct information on safe sports participation they can significantly lower their chances of serious injury, and enjoy many years of competition.”
Overuse injuries impact athletes of all ages and stages in life. This is why Sutter Health’s specialty trained sports medicine physicians help promote a lifetime of fitness and wellness, and encourage prevention of illness and injury. Sample specialty programs for athletes of all abilities include:
- Trained physical therapists at Sutter Delta Medical Center’s Golf Therapy Program in Antioch help golfers of all ages get in golf shape to avoid pain or injury that may come from an improper golf swing.
- Highly skilled physicians with Sutter Orthopedic Institute in the greater Sacramento region offer the latest innovations in care and leading-edge advancements for people with bone, joint and muscle conditions, including arthritis and sports-related injuries.
- Nationally recognized experts with Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Sports Medicine Department in the greater Bay Area focus on the diagnosis and treatment of sports-related injuries.
- California Pacific Medical Center’s Sports Wellness Program in San Francisco works with sports enthusiasts at all levels and ages. Through fitness classes, clinics and rehab, clinicians partner with patients to avoid injury and help them reach their full potential.
- Sutter’s Sports Medicine Department in Davis provides weekly sport-specific sessions designed to decrease injury risk while supporting high-level performance.
For more information, visit our complete Sutter Health Sports Medicine online suite.