Locals take a look at injuries in youth sports

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Wednesday, March, 05 By Mike McMahon
Staff writer

On average, 18 million youths each year will suffer some sort of injury related to athletics. Of those, roughly 3.5 million will be sustained by kids under the age of 15 years old.

That was the topic of discussion at a lecture on kids and sports injuries held at Merrimack College. The was sponsored by Eagle Tribune Publishing's RallyNorth.net, as well as Merrimack College and the Northeast Rehab Health Network.

The message from Andrew Cannon, the physical therapist at Merrimack as well as the Northeast Rehab Health Network, was clear | children need to be active, but at what price?

"No pain, no gain?" he asked the assembled crowd, which included colleagues, coaches, parents, and Merrimack sports medicine students. "I don't think so. The reality is, especially in younger kids, that statement is not accurate. They probably won't be painless, and that's OK, but sports should never be constantly painful."

Prevention can be rather simple, according to Cannon. It doesn't take an orthopedic surgeon or a physical therapist to know when a child is hurt. Parents can usually see it. "There needs to be balance," said Cannon. "Sure, the more a kid hits a baseball, the better he will get. But, if a kid goes to the batting cages four days a week, and hits 100 balls each time, that kid is going to suffer some sort of injury."

In younger children, most injuries are from repetitive overuse, he said. The bigger kids get, especially in contact sports, the more force involved with collisions.

"To prevent these repetitive injuries, it really comes down to education of the coaches and parents," he said. "Usually coaches for the younger kids are parents, which is great. But, sometimes they aren't as educated. They just need to know what can cause serious repetitive injuries."

Offseason training, even if its as simple as playing outside with friends, can go a long way in preventing devastating injuries to younger athletes.

"For example, in the preseason, you can't go from doing nothing to going 100 percent. That doesn't mean we want six-year-old kids out there doing push-ups getting ready for soccer season, which, believe it or not, I've seen. Just staying active will get the kids ready. You can't go from nothing to something, and not get hurt."

As athletes get older, the pressure on them becomes greater and greater to earn starting positions and possibly scholarships.

"The hardest athlete to slow down is the high school athlete," said Dr. Steven Andriola of Orthopedics Northeast. "Younger kids, if you tell them they need to take a break for a week or two, they usually do. College and pro athletes, they understand the risk of playing with injuries, but high school athletes want to be out there at all costs. How many times have you heard a kid say to a coach, 'I'm feeling some pain,' and the coach responds with, 'Well can you play?'

"That's not the coaches fault, they should be educated."

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