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Study: Young Athletes Especially Susceptible to Hand and Arm Injuries During Sports

Hospital for Special Surgery offers nine ways parents can help their children train and compete safely

NEW YORK—September 22, 2009

One cannot underestimate the importance of exercise for young people to maintain physical fitness and develop healthy bones. And while participating in athletic activities is essential for good health, it’s important that children and teenagers play it safe to avoid injury, according to Michelle Carlson, M.D., director of the Children and Adolescent Hand and Arm (CHArm) Center at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and a Long Island resident.

A study at the CHArm Center found that young people are especially prone to hand and arm injuries while participating in youth sports. “The combination of youthful activity and still-growing bones makes children and adolescents susceptible to this type of injury, especially if they’re involved in youth sports such as basketball, soccer or baseball,” Dr. Carlson notes.

“Of the 394 patients seen at the CHArm Center since it opened in October 2005, 47 percent came in for injuries they sustained while playing a sport, either organized or recreationally with friends,” said Dr. Carlson. According to CHArm Center data, they most frequently participated in basketball, soccer or baseball.

The good news is that young people can stay active and avoid injury through prevention techniques and mindful parental supervision, according to Dr. Carlson. To prevent accidents and injuries in organized sports, Dr. Carlson, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends the following guidelines for parents:

  • Limit each sporting activity to five days a week, including competitive play, training and practice, and be sure to reserve one day per week of rest from all organized physical activity.
  • Have children take a break, about two to three months, from each sport per year. Year-round play can contribute to overuse injuries.
  • Limit weekly training time, number of repetitions and total distance to no more than a 10 percent increase each week.
  • Make sure young athletes warm up properly to slowly increase the heart and breathing rate by doing low-intensity versions of the activity and stretching.
  • Ensure the use of proper equipment for each sport: protective equipment should be the correct size, fit well and protect from top to bottom.
    • Children should use helmet, eye protection, mouth guards, pads, protective cup or cleats, depending on the activity.
  • Educate players on the rules of the game: make sure they understand their role and position, as well as where to be to avoid being in harm’s way.
  • Be vigilant to signs of burnout such as athlete’s fatigue, poor academic performance and complaints of nonspecific muscle or joint problems.
  • Stop children from playing while injured: if a parent spots a problem, allowing further activity could lead to a more severe and painful injury. All injuries need time to heal.
  • Keep it positive: emphasize that the focus of sports participation should be on fun, skill acquisition, sportsmanship and, above all else, safety.

Dr. Carlson says specific questions or plans for a young athlete’s training should be directed to the child’s pediatrician. Read more about the CHArm Center and its services, or call 1.888.CHArm40 (1.888.242.7640).

The Children and Adolescent Hand and Arm (CHArm) Center at Hospital for Special Surgery is a comprehensive resource dedicated to the treatment, research and education of all children and adolescents. The CHArm Center’s multidisciplinary team of specialists provides care for children and adolescents with a variety of hand and arm conditions including orthopedic trauma and sports injuries, rheumatologic conditions, neurological disorders, congenital defects and tumors.

The CHArm Center staff provides educational outreach programs to area schools, parents, athletic coaches and health-care workers. By providing information about hand and arm safety and ways to avoid common upper extremity injuries, doctors at the CHArm Center hope to decrease the number of accidental hand injuries in the pediatric and adolescent population.

 

About HSS | Hospital for Special Surgery
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the eighth consecutive year) and No. 3 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2017-2018). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has one of the lowest infection rates in the country and was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center four consecutive times. The global standard total knee replacement was developed at HSS in 1969. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State. In 2017 HSS provided care to 135,000 patients and performed more than 32,000 surgical procedures. People from all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries travelled to receive care at HSS. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. The HSS Global Innovation Institute was formed in 2016 to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The culture of innovation is accelerating at HSS as 130 new idea submissions were made to the Global Innovation Institute in 2017 (almost 3x the submissions in 2015). The HSS Education Institute is the world’s leading provider of education on the topic on musculoskeletal health, with its online learning platform offering more than 600 courses to more than 21,000 medical professional members worldwide. Through HSS Global Ventures, the institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally.

 

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