As more children and teens participate in year-round sports activities, a greater number of young athletes are experiencing overuse injuries, sprains and strains, fractures, and ligament and growth-plate injuries. In fact, a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that more than 3.5 million sports-related injuries requiring medical attention occur each year in youths under the age of 15.
Fractures of the growth plate in the ankles, elbows, shoulders and knees of young athletes are common. Growing cartilage is sensitive, so traction injuries can develop at an early age as well. The consequences of overdoing a sport and practicing repetitive motions for a prolonged period of time can include injuries that impair growth, and may lead to long-term health problems if not appropriately addressed. Proper warm up before an activity and cool down after activity are important, along with cross training (whenever possible) and rest.
When injury does occur, the physicians provide a comprehensive approach to orthopedic care to help young athletes safely rediscover their potential.
Specialty Care for Young Athletes
Because injuries and conditions of the bones, muscles, ligaments and joints experienced by active youths can be very different from those of adults, Dr. Dietrich takes a highly individualized approach to treatment. Less can be more when it comes to pediatric sports injuries where growth areas may be involved.
Athletes 7 to 13 years of age: It may be feasible to focus on comfort and healing rather than surgery and reconstruction due to the sensitive nature of growing bones and joints. Once bone maturity is reached, other treatment options may be appropriate.
Teens and other youths who are close to full bone maturity: Treatment may be similar to that for an injured adult. A thorough evaluation and imaging tests can help determine the best course of treatment.
If surgery is determined to be the best option for pain relief, mobility and proper healing, parents and coaches are encouraged to be involved in the treatment plan and to follow safe guidelines for returning a player to the game and an active lifestyle.