September is here and so is football season, which means excitement, competition, and unfortunately, the risk of injury. Dr. Thomas Wickiewicz, Orthopedic Surgeon and Head Team Physician at St. Peter’s University, recommends these precautions:
1. Although the weather is often cooler in September here in NYC, that may not be true in other parts of the country. Heat and especially humidity may remain dangerously high, especially for younger athletes, and those not yet properly acclimatized. Heat related illness is still a risk in September. Proper rest and hydration are paramount. Parents need to be aware of heat-related illness, their signs and symptoms, and be active in ensuring the safety of the athlete.
2. If you read the sports pages, you are aware of the heightened vigilance and attention being given to concussions. Young athletes are more susceptible to concussion-related illness. Older athletes, with more intense competition, speed of sport and force of contact are clearly at risk. Also, the older, more competitive athlete may still try and hide the injury for fear of being removed from play. Parents should be aware of their athletic children and adolescents; look for changes in affect, school performance, grades, etc. as well as the obvious persistent headache and other physical signs. Seek professional consult if you are suspicious.
3. Football is a contact sport, and as such, injuries will occur. Most injuries will be discrete, rather than overuse injuries associated with other sports (although these can clearly still exist). Acute injuries to the athlete must be evaluated by competent trainers or sports medicine physicians to avoid missing serious injuries, especially in younger athletes with open growth plates and the potential for injury to that part of the growing bones.
4. As the athlete grows, so does the force of impact in football collision. Youth football is actually relatively safe as regards these injuries, but the high school and college athlete is at risk, especially for knee ligament and shoulder stability injuries. Proper attention in evaluating suspected injuries cannot be overstated. Football can be a relatively safe sport with proper conditioning, training, and technique by the athlete.
Enjoy the season!
Dr. Thomas Wickiewicz is an Orthopedic Surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. He specializes in sports medicine, meniscus surgery, ACL surgery, and shoulder surgery. He spent eight years as Assistant Team Physician for the New York Giants, and he now serves as the Head Team Physician for all Division 1A College sports at St. Peter’s University. Dr. Wickiewicz has published over 100 scientific papers on his extensive research on knee and shoulder surgery and given more than 200 invited presentations.