Give Young Athletes a Break

ConcussionFor many of today’s young athletes, summer break includes a sports camp providing concentrated training in their specialized sport. But according to ONS Sports Medicine Specialist, Dr. Marc Kowalsky, early sports specialization is the last thing they should be doing with their free time.

“There is an increasing body of evidence indicating that early sports specialization does more harm than good. In fact, it seems that it actually decreases the potential for success in the sport in the long term,” he said.

Dr. Kowalsky said children who specialize in a single sport before the age of 13 don’t develop the protective neuromuscular patterns that help prevent stress to a single area of the body.  Because young athletes are less likely to perform technical repetitive skills properly, these children are more prone to overuse injuries that can sideline them later in life.

“The risk of injury doubles for children involved in excessive organized play at early ages over children who participate in an appropriate amount of free play,” Dr. Kowalsky noted.

Children who undergo early sports specialization are also at an increased risk for psychological burnout. Overtime it can manifest as mood disturbances, social isolation, and eating disorders. “These kids often drop out of the sport altogether as they get older,” he said.

Despite popular belief, early specialization does not guarantee elite performance later in life. A study of elite adult athletes at amateur and pro levels revealed that elite success did not require exclusive participation in a single sport until their high school years. Instead, top players participated in multiple sports in the preceding years, developing important movement patterns that made them stronger over time.

“Sports diversification actually increases overall athleticism, and the chance of a young athlete achieving elite status,” Dr. Kowalsky said.

The trend toward early youth sports specialization is relatively new. Twenty years ago, young athletes typically played a particular sport only during a given season (i.e. football in the fall, baseball in the spring, swimming in the summer), and most kids rested from competitive sports for a season or during the summer.

The surge in throwing injuries, stress fractures, and other overuse injuries in younger athletes reflects the physical pressures affecting today’s young athletic bodies.  A recent study found that high school athletes who had trained in one sport for more than 8 months in a year were more likely to report a history of overuse knee and hip injuries, than those who played a variety of sports throughout the year or played sports at less intense levels.

The vast majority of injuries associated with excessive specialization and training are overuse injuries. Overuse injuries develop slowly over time, starting perhaps as a mild twinge before progressing into relentless, often debilitating pain.

Thankfully, these injuries are relatively easy to treat when recognized early, with a period rest and activity modification.  All too often, however, players, their coaches and, sadly, parents, are often reluctant to have the athlete sit out a few practices and games.

Left untreated, overuse injuries can lead to more significant structural damage to an affected area. Therefore, it can require lengthier rehabilitation and sometimes surgery.

What’s more, repetitive activities such as throwing or running can lead to changes in the development of growing bones and joints. For instance, significant amounts of pitching during adolescence can change the rotation and shape of the shoulder.

“The musculature and bones of the developing thrower are not prepared for the excessive numbers of pitches they throw in a game,” said Dr. Kowalsky. This in part has contributed to an epidemic of young athletes suffering ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injuries, which sometimes requires the so-called Tommy John Surgery.

The solution is simple but that doesn’t mean it is easy.  Dr. Kowalsky recommends the following practices for kids younger than 13 years:

  • Make time for unstructured play

  • Keep the ratio of weekly hours of organized sport to free play below 2:1.

  • Weekly hours of sports participation should not exceed a child’s age, or total of 16 hours in teen players.

  • Athletes of all ages should participate in some sort of supervised strength and conditioning program.

But he admits, in today’s competitive environment implementation of these steps can be easier said than done.  Parents and coaches should keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to make sure their children remain injury-free so they can maximize enjoyment and success in their sport of choice.

 

The Well-Balanced Student Athlete

Watch the panel presentation, The Well-Balanced Athlete,  delivered by ONS physicians at Byram Hills High School in Armonk, NY on February 13, 2018.  Sports medicine experts Dr. Marc Kowalsky and Dr. Demetris Delos were joined by sports psychologist Dr. Alex Diaz, to address such issues as injury prevention, the dangers of sports specialization, sleep and nutritional requirements, and the importance of mindfulness training.  The school’s television station recorded the 90-minute program. If you would like to see the presentation live, the panel will be addressing the Briarcliff Manor school district coaches, parents and students at the Briarcliff Middle School Auditorium on Tuesday, March 13 beginning at 7:00 pm.  There will be time for Q & A at the end of the presentation.  You can also view the PowerPoint presentations given by Dr. Delos and Dr. Kowalsky.

Youth Rugby Safety Talk

ONS SPORTS MEDICINE SPECIALIST MARC S. KOWALSKY, MD, TO SPEAK ABOUT YOUTH RUGBY SAFETY ON MAY 4 

Dr. Marc Kowalsky will discuss safe participation in youth rugby, the fastest growing sport among young athletes in the United StKowalskyMD_WorldRugbyPacificNationsCupates.

The informative lecture for coaches, players and parents of players presented by the Rye Rugby Club will take place on Wednesday, May 4 beginning at 7 pm at the Rye High School Performing Arts Center at One Parsons Street in Rye New York.

Dr. Kowalsky will draw from his extensive experience caring for rugby players at every level of competition in this discussion of strategies for injury prevention. Topics will include optimal diet and nutrition, as well as strength and conditioning in these athletes.  Dr. Kowalsky will also touch on the value of protective equipment in youth rugby. The critical role of coaching and officiating in maintaining safety of the game will be covered, as will prevention and management of concussion. The importance of collaboration among parents, coaches, trainers, and physicians will be addressed as well.

A former rugby player, Dr. Kowalsky serves as team physician for the USA Rugby National Team, the White Plains Rugby Football Club, Iona College Rugby Football Club, and the CT State Champion Greenwich High School Rugby Team.

Chocolate and Athletic Performance

Portrait Of Fitness Mature Man Eating A Energy Bar Of Chocolate

CAN CHOCOLATE IMPROVE ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE? SOME RESEARCHES SAY IT CAN.

Here’s one more study to suggest that indulging in chocolate and physical fitness are not mutually exclusive.  Past research has indicated that flavanols in cocoa beans have antioxidant effects the can help lower blood pressure, improve vascular function and reduce the cell damage involved in heart disease.  Now, research published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition puts forward the notion that one of the flavanols in the cocoa bean and dark chocolate, epicatechin, can increase the production of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate and reduces oxygen consumption, which in turn seems to increase athletic performance.

Nitric acid is also a bi-product of nitrates in beetroot juice, which is popular among elite athletes because it enhances their endurance.  A  postgraduate research student from Kingston University in London, Rishikesh Kankesh Patel, wanted to know if dark chocolate could provide similar benefits.  His supervised study involved nine amateur cyclists who were put into two groups after establishing a baseline in fitness levels. For two weeks, the cyclists  replaced a daily snack with 1.5 ounces of chocolate, with one group consuming dark chocolate, the other  white chocolate. Following the two weeks, the participants performed  moderate cycling exercises and time trials while researchers measured their heart rates and oxygen consumption. The riders then took a week-long break from eating the sweet, then switched chocolate types and repeated the two-week trial and exercises tests.

Patel and his team, noted that after consuming dark chocolate, the athletes used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace and out-distanced their white chocolate eating counterparts in a 2-minute time trial.  While the results appear promising, more research with a larger study group is needed to determine such factors as the optimal quantity to consume, the time period in which to consume it, and the duration of benefits.

If those questions can be answered, however, dark chocolate may offer a tastier training tool to athletes who find beetroot juice too bitter to palate, and to anyone else looking for a good excuse to each chocolate.

An Added Level of Safety to Young Athletes

THE ORTHO ACCESS PROGRAM AT ONS OFFERS AN ADDED LEVEL OF SAFETY TO YOUNG ATHLETES WHO ARE INJURED ON THE FIELD. 

If you missed yesterday’s  Well column in The New York Timesit focused on the lack of national safety standards to protect student athletes from crippling or fatal injuries.  Individual states and theinjured on the field schools within them, for the most part, haven’t yet adopted injury prevention and treatment policies or procedures for children who play organized or league sports either. The responsibility is all too often left to coaches and parents to assess what measures to take when a young athlete is injured and when they can return to play. 500 student athletes died last year due to poor decisions made immediately following injury, according to the article. The ORTHO ACCESS program at ONS is designed to add an extra layer of medical support and injury prevention education for coaches, athletes, and parents. During the first critical moments after a player is hurt,  ONS ORTHO ACCESS sports medicine physicians helps to determine the best immediate course of action to take. Read  more.

 

 

Kids and Concussions

Injury on the soccer field

IT TAKES A TEAM TO TREAT KIDS WITH CONCUSSIONS, PANEL CONCLUDES.

ONS physicians Paul Sethi, MD and Scott Simon, MD, took part in an important panel discussion for parents about kids and concussions at Greenwich High School on Wednesday night. If you missed this event, presented by ONSF, you can read about the highlights in the Greenwich Time here.

“Knowing your steps, resources and who to call and who to identify can really reduce the anxiety of the student and the family,” said panelist Dr. Paul Sethi, an orthopedic surgeon who is the team physician for Greenwich High. “You become empowered by understanding and when you know who’s on your team to help shepherd you through this event.”

While the best responses for responding to concussions have become clearer in recent years, panelist Dr. Scott Simon, a neurosurgeon, said preventing head injuries is a complex task. Some best practices, he said, include teaching heads-up tackling in football.

2015 ONS Scholarship Award

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In June, Dr. Delos, MD, presented the ONS Scholarship to graduating student athlete Matheus Chaves.

THE 2015 ONS SCHOLARSHIP WAS AWARDED TO GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR, MATHEUS CHAVES.

As a way of giving back to the community, ONS awards a yearly scholarship to a graduating high school student that has exceled in both academics and athletics. This June, Dr. Demetris Delos presented Matheus Chaves with the ONS scholarship. Matheus is set to begin courses at Florida Atlantic University this fall where he plans to study Exercise Science. He hopes to become an athletic trainer. After completion of his bachelor’s degree, Matheus plans to return to the Fairfield County area to continue his education and become a physical therapist.

For the past three years, Matheus has worked with local youth at the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club as a camp counselor where he was awarded the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, Youth of the Year Award. We congratulate Matheus for his contribution to the community and his high school academic and sports career that involved soccer, track and field and wrestling.

When we asked Matheus what advice he would like to offer upconing high school seniors he said, “while going through the college selection process everything works out for a reason. Don’t worry if you don’t get in to the one you thought was your top pick, all things work out.”

From all of us at ONS, we wish Matheus well!