Fall sports mean thousands of Quad City athletes are on the football fields, soccer pitches, cross-country courses, and volleyball courts to represent their schools, win seasons and for some, pursue dreams of coveted college scholarships.
Unfortunately for many, sports careers and college dreams can be derailed by premature sports-related injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), high school athletes alone account for an estimated 2 million injuries, 500,000 physician visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations every year.
“We are definitely seeing younger and younger players with sports-related injuries come through our Sports Medicine Center,” says sports medicine surgeon, Dr. Suleman Hussain, ORA Orthopedics. “There are basically two types of injuries we see: overuse injuries caused by overtraining and acute injuries caused by a sudden trauma such as a twist, fall, or collision.”
Seventeen-year-old Emily Hayton, Wheatland, IA, has experienced her share of injuries, undergoing 3 separate surgeries in the span of one year.
In November 2014, Emily tore the meniscus in her knee in PE — the injury occurred during her volleyball season. ORA sports medicine physician, Dr. Peter Rink, performed arthroscopic knee surgery to repair the tear.
Four months later, Emily needed a 2nd surgery, this time for her shoulder.
“She was spiking the volleyball in a game when she felt a ‘pop,’” recalls her mother, Shannon Hayton. Shannon says her daughter had experienced occasional shoulder soreness from also playing softball. “She’s played softball for 6 years and volleyball in high school. She’s really active and enjoys playing for her teams.”
An MRI scan showed a tear to Emily’s labrum. The labrum is the tissue that surrounds the socket of the shoulder and helps center and stabilize the ball inside the joint.
In March, Dr. Hussain performed an arthroscopic labrum surgery, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. Subsequent physical therapy put Emily on the road to recovery.
“Her shoulder actually felt much better than before the surgery,” says Shannon.
But her return-to-sport was short-lived when a 2nd meniscus tear occurred in the same knee after she fell and twisted it while roller skating.
Emily underwent her 2nd knee surgery (her 3rd surgery in a year) in mid-August. Dr. Rink performed the 2nd surgery to the same knee.
“It’s unfortunate, but Emily’s injuries have sidelined her for both her softball and volleyball seasons. Young athletes are particularly vulnerable to these injuries because they are still growing.”
According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), a young person’s bones grow first, which pulls their muscles and tendons tight. This uneven growth pattern makes younger athletes more susceptible to muscle, tendon and growth plate injuries.
How do parents know the difference between muscle soreness and injury?
“Pain is a good indicator for potential problems,” says Dr. Hussain. “Young athletes should not play through pain.”
In the event that some athletes may downplay their symptoms in order to continue playing, Dr. Hussain advises coaches and parents to be aware of the more common signs of injury, such as pain with activity, changes in form or technique, pain at night, along with a decreased interest in practice.
“Kids are more active these days and play year around. We definitely see more injuries. Every athlete needs to maintain a balanced program even if they play a single sport,” says Dr. Hussain. He advises athletes and parents make sure young athletes cross train for balanced musculoskeletal health and that they seek a physician’s advice if they have questions or concerns.
WQAD-TV’s Angie Sharp reports on preventing fall sports injuries as part of the station’s monthly “Let’s Move QC” report: