Elbow & Shoulder Injuries Plaguing the Young Athlete
E. Lyle Cain, Jr., MD
Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center
Birmingham, Alabama

Each year in the United States, 6 million children ages 5 to 14 play baseball or softball. The number of serious shoulder and elbow injuries in children has increased significantly since 2000. These injuries in children can cause permanent damage.

According to Dr. Cain, the risks for injury are greater today because kids become "one-sport athletes" early on. Sports are no longer seasonal; children can play baseball or soccer year-round, and they often play in more than one league. This promotes repetitive overuse of the same muscles and joints, which can lead to injury.

Dr. Cain stresses that to stop this increase in injuries, parents, coaches, and the athletes themselves must be educated in ways to prevent them. His recommendations:

  • Be aware of changes in rules and safety guidelines, such as the pitch count rules recently adopted by Little League International.
  • Make sure a child who has pain symptoms sees a doctor as soon as possible to prevent further damage. Children should not have pain while playing sports.
  • Encourage sports participation for fun. Discourage early specialization in one sport.
For more information about these injuries and ways to prevent them, go to:
Concussion, Soccer Injuries and Gender
Alexis Chiang Colvin, MD
Sports Medicine Fellow
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

As girls increase their participation in sports, more research is needed to better understand their risk for injuries and how to effectively treat them.

While investigating concussion in soccer players, Dr. Colvin determined that girls and boys recover from concussions differently. In general, girls who suffered concussions reported more symptoms, such as headaches and feelings of "fogginess." Players with a history of concussion were also found to perform worse on memory testing after a new concussion.

Concussion is often under-recognized and under-reported. Because of the potential long-term effects of concussion — particularly for children who have repeated injury — parents and coaches must be aware of the common symptoms. This is especially important in non-helmeted sports like soccer, where there has been less research conducted.

For more information on preventing soccer injuries, go to:
Keeping Boomers Moving Past Osteoarthritis
Brian R. Wolf, MD, MS
Assistant Professor
University of Iowa Orthopaedics
Team Physician, University of Iowa Athletics

As the population in the United States ages, and as people live longer lives, osteoarthritis is having a bigger impact on our society.

According to Dr. Wolf, many Baby Boomers want to stay active in recreational sports as they age. Osteoarthritis of the knee is the most common problem faced by these active boomers. Treating these patients can be a challenge for doctors. Although there are many treatment options for helping people manage the pain of osteoarthritis, it cannot be cured. Doctors and researchers are working hard to develop more effective treatment methods.

For more information on knee osteoarthritis, its treatments, and living with the condition, go to:
Intercepting Youth Sports Injuries
Mininder Kocher, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Orthopedic Surgery Harvard Medical School
Associate Director, Division of Sports Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston

How common are youth sports injuries?

Children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40% of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms.

How serious are these injuries?

According to Dr. Kocher, many of them will have lifelong effects. For example, during a typical day at his office he might see:

  • a 14-year-old female gymnast with spondylolysis
  • a 12-year-old male soccer player with ACL tear
  • a 16-year-old female runner with stress fracture
  • a 15-year-old male basketball player with meniscus tear
  • a 10-year-old female soccer player with osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).
Each of these children will face a serious treatment program — some will need surgery — and they all will likely face early onset of chronic health problems. These include arthritis, osteoporosis, and back pain.

How do we prevent these injuries?

  • Educate parents, coaches, and scouts about injury prevention
  • Adjust the amount of activity a child spends participating in a single sport
  • Add cross-training and free play into children's activity
  • Incorporate pre-season training programs
  • Develop warm-up and cool-down programs for practices and games
  • Develop strength and conditioning programs
  • Be aware of children's risk factors for injury, including muscle tightness and imbalances, and alignment
  • Seek medical attention when a child has pain
For more information on preventing youth sports injuries, go to:
Wiping Out MRSA Infections in the Athlete
Gary W. Dorshimer, MD, FACP
Pennsylvania Hospital
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is one type of common skin bacteria that got smart and became resistant to the common antibiotics used to treat skin infections. MRSA infections have a higher risk for complications than infections with typical skin bacteria, and can even be life-threatening.

It is spread by skin-to-skin contact, and is more commonly seen in athletes who have the most direct contact, such as linemen or linebackers. A MRSA infection presents in a variety of ways. It may look like a pimple that does not heal properly, or it may be a larger, pus-filled sore. It may even look like a bad sunburn or a spider bite.

Dr. Dorshimer offers these tips to help prevent spreading the infection in the locker room or at home:
  • Wear gloves to examine the sore, and wash your hands after all contact
  • Keep the wound covered
  • Use alcohol-based hand gels for washing
  • DO NOT share towels, razors, clothing or uniforms
  • Clean exercise equipment, mats, and training and taping tables with bleach-containing products.
For more information on infection and how it affects your bones and muscles, go to:
Sports Related Public Service Announcements from the AAOS

There's a secret to beating injuries. Get the right team.
If you're active, there's a good chance you know the frustration a nagging injury can bring. But facing your injury alone can be daunting. How can you be sure you're pursuing the best course of treatment? To weigh in with the experts, visit nata.org or orthoinfo.org for the most advanced information on preventing and treating injuries.

copyright © AAOS 2008
What will they have longer, their trophies or their injuries?
Physical activity is a great way for kids to build strength and stay healthy. Unfortunately, it can sometimes lead to injury. Broken bones require immediate attention, but what about sore shoulders or swollen knees? If not taken seriously, many youth injuries can become chronic later in life. So before your child gets hurt, visit orthoinfo.org or nata.org. Practice prevention and give all injuries proper attention.
copyright © AAOS 2008
Young elbows need special attention. Or they can lead to old elbow injuries.
Children are not just small adults. Their bones and joints are still growing and need special care when injured or over-used. Otherwise, young conditions like "Little League Elbow" or even broken bones can become problems that continue into adulthood. For more information on treating and preventing childhood injuries, visit the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (posna.org) or the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (orthoinfo.org).

copyright © AAOS 2008
Unless otherwise noted, all images on this page copyright © 2008, Getty Images