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Your Child

Former NFL Pros Want to End Kids’ Tackle Football

2:30

Many professional football players began their quest to reach the National Football League (NFL) when they were kids. They practiced and played hard. No one thought about concussions or the damage that might be happening to the athletes’ young brains.

Now, a group of former NFL players including such greats as Hall of Famers Harry Carson of the New York Giants and Nick Buoniconti of the Miami Dolphins are calling for an end to tackle football for kids under 14 years old.

The group is instead endorsing a program called "Flag Football Under 14," launched by the Concussion Legacy Foundation. The program aims to educate parents and young players about chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Sometimes called CTE, it is a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head, and has been detected in more than 85 percent of tackle football players studied over the past 10 years, according to the foundation.

The foundation hopes to help parents make better decisions about their children’s health when playing contact sports. For some people, this new approach to football sounds like a softening of young athletes; they aren’t quite ready to accept that tackle football is anything to worry about. The former NFL greats hope parents will listen with an open mind.

"This education program for parents is inspired by the last decade of research on CTE, which has revealed that the best way to prevent CTE in football players is to delay enrolling in tackle football until 14," Dr. Robert Cantu, the foundation's medical director, said in a news release from the organization.

"We cannot overstate the absurdity of allowing 7-year-olds to receive 500 head impacts a season just because they happen to be getting exercise at the time," added Chris Nowinski, the foundation's chief executive officer who played football at Harvard University.

The football veterans want parents and kids to know that playing flag football when they are young, will not impact their chances of making it to the NFL in the future.

Many NFL greats didn't start playing tackle football until they were 14 years old, including Jim Brown, Tom Brady, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Lawrence Taylor, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation.

"To parents who want their children to experience football, they should not play tackle football until 14," Carson said. "I did not play tackle football until high school, and I will not allow my grandson to play until 14, as I believe it is not an appropriate sport for young children."

Buoniconti, a Dolphins linebacker, now suffers from dementia and has been diagnosed with probable CTE.

"I made a mistake starting tackle football at 9 years old," Buoniconti said in the news release. "Now, CTE has taken my life away. Youth tackle football is all risk with no reward."

The consequences of CTE are not only personally devastating to a player and his family and friends, but can be fatal as well.

Former Pro Bowl Oakland Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano added, "I watched my teammate Ken Stabler [a quarterback elected posthumously to the Hall of Fame in 2016] deteriorate and die from CTE. At some point those of us who have had success in this game must speak up to protect both football players and the future of the game, and supporting Flag Football Under 14 is our best way to do that."

Story source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, https://consumer.healthday.com/fitness-information-14/football-health-news-250/former-nfl-pros-push-for-end-to-kids-tackle-football-730342.html

 

 

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Busy Sports Schedules

1:30 to read

I can’t get over how many of my young patients who play sports tell me that they are up late at night during the school week due to their soccer schedule, or who miss church on Sunday due to a soccer or baseball game. Not only are kids starting organized sports at younger and younger ages (soccer for 3 year olds, flag football at 5?), the commitment to practice or play at what I would term “inappropriate” times seems to be more prevalent and absurd to me.

The mother of a 10 year old boy called me recently to discuss how upset and tearful her son had been since school has started.  Upon further questioning it seems that he had joined a fall baseball team and some of their games are scheduled on school nights at 8 pm....which means they don’t even get home until 10:30 or 11:00 pm?  When my own sons were playing high school sports I was not thrilled about Thursday evening JV games and how late we got home....but elementary school?  Of course, her son was exhausted and then he would get anxious about getting his homework done before hand and getting to bed so late and then being able to get up in the morning etc. etc.  She said that he now wanted to “quit playing baseball”, and cried every time he had to practice.

She was trying to explain to him that he had made a commitment to his team and needed to finish out the season, which I agree is an important life lesson about following through.  At the same I totally understand how upset he is that he has to stay up past his usual school night bedtime. It is not uncommon for some children to get very tearful when they are just exhausted...same for adults.

So how do you rationalize teaching your child about loyalty to their team and commitment when adults make up crazy schedules requiring young kids to stay up past an appropriate bedtime, or forgoing Sunday school if that is what they typically do on Sunday morning rather than going to a scheduled soccer game?

Hard for me to figure out how to “fix” this situation until enough parents say..”we will not let our children participate on the team unless the schedule is appropriate for their age”.  

Have you had any similar experiences? What do you think?

 

Your Child

More Kids Suffering ACL Injuries

2:00

Kids involved in sports like soccer, basketball and football are increasing their odds of damaging their knees, according to a new study.

A common knee injury — an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear — has steadily increased among 6- to 18-year-olds in the United States, rising more than 2 percent a year over the last two decades, researchers report.

These injuries peak in high school, said lead researcher Dr. Nicholas Beck, an orthopedic surgery resident at the University of Minnesota. Girls have a higher rate of ACL injuries, Beck added.

Sports like soccer and basketball often require the child to pivot or cut back and forth, putting stress on their ACL and risking a tear.  Contact sports like football can further increase the risk. But ACL tears can occur in tennis and volleyball, too.

The study didn’t look at why the injuries are on the rise, but co-author, Dr. Marc Tompkins, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Minnesota, has a theory.

“One potential cause is the year-round sports specialization that is occurring in kids at an earlier age,” Tompkins said.

Instead of playing a variety of sports and using different muscle groups, many kids are focusing on just one sport creating muscle fatigue and an increase for injury, Tompkins explained.

“Another potential cause is that children as athletes play with more intensity and force than 20 years ago, which may put the body at increased risk of injury,” he added.

The numbers of girls experiencing ACL tears are rising because their sports participation numbers are up.

Beck hopes this study will increase awareness of ACL tears in young athletes and promote interest in prevention programs or developing athletic participation guidelines.

The anterior cruciate ligament sits in the center of the front of the knee. It’s one of the ligaments that holds the knee bones together. When it tears, the ligament splits into two, causing knee instability, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

“ACL injuries are serious in the short term because they generally require six months’ to a year’s worth of hard recovery work before going back to sports. And even then it often takes longer to get back to pre-injury function,” Tompkins said.

“ACL injuries are serious in the long term, too, because we know that even if they recover well with or without surgery, the risk of developing arthritis in the injured knee is higher than before the injury,” he added.

Some sports medicine specialist say there are ways to reduce injuries among young athletes, by having coaches teach good running techniques that promote improved function and agility.

Children participating in sports can also benefit from flexibility and stretching programs.

The researchers found that girls of all ages experienced a significant increase in the incidence of ACL tears over 20 years. In boys, however, only those aged 15 to 16 showed such an increase.

The report was published online journal Pediatrics.

Story source: Steven Reinberg, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/acl-tears-on-the-rise-among-kids-especially-girls/

Your Child

Kid’s Head Injury Linked to Long Term Attention Problems

1:45

Even mild brain injuries may cause children to have momentary gaps in attention long after an accident occurs, according to a new study.

The study of 6- to 13-year-olds found these attention lapses led to lower behavior and intelligence ratings by their parents and teachers.

"Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower," said study researcher Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

This loss of focus was apparent even when brain scans showed no obvious damage, the researchers said.

The study’s results are being released as schools gear up for a new academic year combined with some sports programs that can put children at risk for head injuries.

Traumatic brain injury can occur from a blow to the head caused by a fall, traffic accident, and assault or sports injury.

Concussion is one type of traumatic brain injury. In 2009, more than 248,000 teens and children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries or concussions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the study was conducted.  Researchers compared 113 children who had been hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury with 53 children who had a trauma injury not involving the head. The injuries, which ranged from mild to severe, occurred more than 18 months earlier on average.

The researchers tested mental functioning and evaluated questionnaires completed by parents and teachers at least two months after the injuries.

The head-injured group had slower processing speed, the researchers found. And their attention lapses were longer than those noted in the other children. But unlike other research, no differences were reported in other types of attention, such as executive attention -- the ability to resolve conflict between competing responses.

As is typical with most studies, the results do not prove a cause and effect relationship, but an association.

The take-home message from this study is that even mild head injury can lead to problems, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He was not involved with the research.

"This study provides further evidence of the importance of trying to minimize brain trauma, since even when there is no visible damage on CAT scans or MRIs, there can still be a significant adverse effect on attention span and behavior," Adesman said.

This research underscores the need to protect children from head injuries through proper supervision, consistent use of child car seats and seat belts, as well as headgear when bike riding and playing contact sports, he added.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

More information on brain injury in children can be found at the Brain Injury Association of America’s website, http://www.biausa.org/brain-injury-children.htm.

Source: Kathleen Doheny,  http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/brain-health-news-80/head-injury-may-trigger-attention-issues-in-kids-701821.html

Your Child

Sports Variety Recommended to Avoid Overuse Injuries

1:45

Kids who participate in a variety of sports are more likely to benefit from lifelong physical activity according to a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Researchers also noted that children, who specialize in a single sport at a younger age, are at a higher risk for overuse injuries from training as well as increased stress and burnout.

In its report, “Sports Specialization and Intensive Training in Young Athletes, “the AAP reviewed patterns of youth sports and found the culture has changed dramatically over the past 40 years.

"More kids are participating in adult-led organized sports today, and sometimes the goals of the parents and coaches may be different than the young athletes," said lead author Joel S. Brenner, MD, FAAP, past chairperson of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.

"Some are aiming for college scholarships or a professional athletic career, but those opportunities are rare," Dr. Brenner said. "Children who play multiple sports, who diversify their play, are more likely to enjoy physical activity throughout their lives and more successful in achieving their athletic goals."

The AAP suggests that kids participate in several sports and delay specializing in one particular sport until late adolescence.  The academy also advocates banning the practice of ranking athletes nationally and recruiting for college before they reach their late high school years.

About 60 million children age 6-18 participate in organized sports annually, according to the 2008 National Council of Youth Sports. Of those, about 27 percent participated in only one sport, the council found. Increasingly, children specialize in one sport early and play year-round, often on multiple teams. By age 7, some participate in select or travel leagues that are independent of school-sponsored programs.

About 70 percent of children drop out of organized sports by age 13, research shows.

While there are a variety of reasons why kids may choose to drop out of sports, Brenner believes stress may play a role.

"One reason could be pressure to perform better and lack of enjoyment due to a variety of reasons, including a lack of playing time," Dr. Brenner said.

During the recent Olympic games in Rio, sports such as figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics and diving gained international attention and praise. There is no doubt that these remarkable athletes have been training diligently since they were children. While few will achieve the kinds of success these athletes have, it hasn’t stopped them from trying.

Youth athletes often begin their competitive sports careers as early as age seven, with some youth participating in organized sports activities as early as age four, if not sooner. With an estimated 25 million scholastic, and another 20 million organized community-based youth programs in the United States, the opportunity for injury is enormous.

That is not to say that children should avoid sports, in fact, physical activity is necessary for normal growth and good health. However, when young children specialize in one particular sport and the activity level becomes too intense or too excessive in a short time period, tissue breakdown and injury can occur.

These overuse injuries used to be seen frequently in adult recreational athletes, but are now being seen in children. The single biggest factor contributing to the dramatic increase in overuse injuries in young athletes is the focus on more intense, repetitive and specialized training at much younger ages.

The AAP has these recommendations for young athletes and their parents:

•       Delay sports specialization until at least age 15-16 to minimize risks of overuse injury.

•       Encourage participation in multiple sports.

•       If a young athlete has decided to specialize in a single sport, a pediatrician should discuss the child's goals to determine whether they are appropriate and realistic.

•       Parents are encouraged to monitor the training and coaching environment of "elite" youth sports programs.

•       Encourage a young athlete to take off at least three months during the year, in increments of one month, from their particular sport. They can still remain active in other activities during this time.

•       Young athletes should take one to two days off per week to decrease chances of injury.

"The ultimate goal of sports is for kids to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills," Dr. Brenner said. "We want kids to have more time for deliberate play, where they can just go out and play with their friends and have fun."

The AAP report was published online in the journal Pediatrics.

Story sources: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/AAP-Clinical-Report-Young-Children-Risk-Injury-in-Single-Sport-Specialization.aspx

http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/kids-sports-injuries-numbers-are-impressive

 

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