Join us at noon CT/1 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to chat about youth sports injuries. (Note: This chat has been rescheduled from the original Dec. 14 date.)
Join health and fitness writer Julie Deardorff and youth sports expert Brian Grasso at noon CT on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to chat about youth sports injuries. An estimated 4 million young athletes are injured every year in the U.S., but many if not most of the injuries are considered preventable. Grasso, the founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association will answer questions about everything from ACL tears and concussions to whether young athletes should specialize.
Expert:Brian Grasso, the founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association provides educational seminars covering youth athletic development and training topics to sporting organizations throughout the world. He's also an educational consultant to the Children's Memorial Hospital's Institute for Sports Medicine and has written extensively on sport training. Grasso has coached professional and Olympic-caliber athletes and has served as a conditional consultant for both Canadian and U.S. national team athletes. firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello everybody! Welcome to the Chicago Tribune chat on youth sports injuries. We will be getting started at noon.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 11:56 Julie Deardorff
It's time to get started. I'm Julie Deardorff, your moderator, and today we'll be talking with Brian Grasso, the founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association to talk about youth sports injuries and how to prevent or cope with them. The IYC provides educational seminars covering youth athletic development and training topics to sporting organizations throughout the world.
Brian, who has worked with professional and Olympic caliber athletes, is also an educational consultant to the Children's Memorial Hospital's Institute for Sports Medicine and has written extensively on sport training.
Thanks for coming, Brian.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:00 Julie Deardorff
Good afternoon, all!! Incredibly important topic and I'm looking forward to the Q & A!
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:01 Brian Grasso
I'll get the interview started, but Brian will also be taking your questions.
Brian, children seem to be getting injured at younger and younger ages. Is this simply a perception or are injuries on the rise?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:01 Julie Deardorff
Very much a reality on the rise, Julie. The factors we see as to 'why' is due to 1) over-specialization in single sports at a young age and 2) too much competition (long seasons). The change (that would work as the solution) is to understand the important aspects of human growth and development - Specifically, have children enjoy multiple sports year round.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:04 Brian Grasso
Okay, we'll get to specialization in a second. But Veronica Janus sent a question via email. She wrote: I'm a mom who has had a son in football and other various sports and now a daughter who has played various sports herself. Both of my children have had injuries that resulted with my daughter having to undergo surgery. My question is what sport is considered to have the most injuries: cheerleading or football?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:05 Julie Deardorff
I don't have actual stats, so can't really provide an accurate answer pertaining to which sport has more injury prevelance. Having said that, football is, at very least, a seasonal activity which doesn't require young athletes to participate in year round. The same isn't always true for cheerleading. Additionally, while both sports have inherent risks, the hyper-mobility/flexibility, tumbling and acrobatics necessary in cheerleading certainly compound the potential for injury occurance. Training young cheerleaders should be based on INJURY PREVENTATIVE FACTORS (such as general preparation, athletic ability etc) and not just PERFORMANCE.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:09 Brian Grasso
[Comment From EricEric: ]
Our 12-year-old daughter is a competitive figure skater who practices at least three mornings a week before school. What off-ice exercises or conditioning routines can you recommend for specifically helping young skaters build strength and endurance?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:09 Eric
Great question! Firstly, try not to look at the training of a young person in terms of improving her/his ability in a given sport. What we're building in this age group is general athletic ability. This athletic ability will serve to allow them to improve in a single, choosen sport in time, but at 12 years old, we have to pay more attention to what's needed from a growth and development standpoint. At 12, we are about to enter the stage of PHV (peak height velocity) - commonly called the 'growth spurt'. Specific to this time of life, young athletes need to be working on things like mobility (per joint and systemically) as well as flexibility because quite frankly, they will begin 'loosing' those factors as they grow.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:12 Brian Grasso
Brian, does the same hold true for young hockey players? Is it good to have them play sports such as soccer?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:12 Julie Deardorff
[Comment From moyramoyra: ]
I was just going to ask about Hockey players. I am a mom of 3. Always lookiing for ways to improve endurance and performance while preventing injury
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:14 moyra
Yes and without question! Try to look at youth sports in the same way as you would your child's academic life. You wouldn't have them just take 'math' or 'science' at 12 - in order to develop properly and gain as diverse an intellect as possible, we MUST have them be multi-disciplinary in the studies. Exactly the same as sports. What's called 'Cross Training' today, is nothing more than good, common sense!
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:15 Brian Grasso
Endurance is always specific to a sport. For example, the kind of endurance a volleyball player needs is substanially different than a hockey player. That being said, the best was to gain 'Hockey Fitness' is to play hockey! However, and I can't stress this enough, the KEY to sports performance and injury prevention is to train children with a general, global mind. Make them better athletes... They become better hockey players from there!
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:16 Brian Grasso
[Comment From DonnaDonna: ]
Hi, my son is 11, plays soccer and has Osgood-Schlatter syndrome in his right knee. He also has fairly pronated feet which he wears inserts for in his shoes. We have seen a pediatric orthopedist for these conditions but I'd like to know how lohg my son may have these conditions? Will he likely outgrow either or both of these? He does not, by any means, have constant pain from either of these. In fact, only after playing a hard game of soccer or practice do either his knee or feet hurt. Thank you,
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:17 Donna
I had OS as a child and remember... It hurt! It tends to be a growth-based issue and certainly calms in time (typically 6 - 12 months post PHV). The pronated foot issue may or may not alter after growth. Most of the time, in my experience, pronated feet will remain for life, but with inserts, seldoms presents as problematic. I would add to be very wary when (or if) working with Trainers/Coaches on Strength and Conditioning. The force production from the feet during exercises like squats or lunges is specific and if not done correctly can most certainly lead to overuse or chronic injury (especially at the knee, hip or back).
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:21 Brian Grasso
[Comment From Jon LJon L: ]
Speaking of 'growth spurt', my 12 yr old son has Osgood-Schlatter. He's quite active. Any treatments or preventative measure from further injuries?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:21 Jon L
Nothing that I'm aware of, Jon (in terms of prevention from OS). It's a growth-related condition that is very common. I will say however, that through this time (and I cannot state this enough) careful attention must be paid to mobility and range of moton. These factors diminish during growth and can result in injury if not tended to.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:23 Brian Grasso
[Comment From moyramoyra: ]
What is your opinion on supplementation for the teenage athlete?
I tend to stay clear of supplementation with this age group. Firstly, I don't want young athletes to use protein, creatine or any other ergogenic aid as a 'gateway' to more involved supplementation (steroids for example). Perhaps more importantly however, almost 100% of the time in my experience, a young athletes diet isn't anywhere near where it needs to be in order to justify the need for supplementation. A young athletes' diet must be rich in whole, natural food, lots of water, quality proteins, fats and carbohydrates. If (and that's a BIG if!) all these things are tended to properly, I doubt there is a need to supplement. They can be useful in time's when a young athlete doesn't have the opportunity to have a fully integrated natural diet, but even then, I'm a much bigger fan of whole, natural foods.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:28 Brian Grasso
[Comment From BobBob: ]
My son plays freshman football and they preach to the kids about how important it is to get into the weight room and lift to get stronger. How can i be sure that they are training appropriately and not strengthening dysfunction?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:28 Bob
Bob... Thank you. Great question and one that needs MUCH clarity. In short, you can't be sure. I have worked as a Coach and/or Consultant in many high schools nationwide and this is the #1 change I try to make right from the start. The standard weight room practices tend to be old-school, dogma - and terribly concerning from an injury standpoint. Without proper form, you can almost bet with 100% certainty that dysfunction will result. The problem? Most high school coaches don't have any idea HOW to teach proper lift and movement mechanics (interested only in how strong, how fast etc). This is where a revolution is absolutely essential. My advice is to find a quality Strength Coach in your area who can teach your son proper technique (away from the high school weight room).
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:32 Brian Grasso
[Comment From Jacqueline KlimasJacqueline Klimas: ]
I was wondering how much of a role mouthguards could play in preventing concussions.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:32 Jacqueline Klimas
Hi Jacqueline! Great question. My understanding is that a mouthguard can be of preventative help due to their ability to keep the jawbone in proper alignment during contact. Having said that, I have not read any specific research on the topic that sheds light on the accuracy of my opinion.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:35 Brian Grasso
I've written on this. The answer is they don't prevent concussions, according to Jason Mihalik, lead author of a Pediatrics study and an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mihalik, a researcher at UNC's Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center who has published several studies on the topic. But while mouthguards don't prevent concussions, they can help prevent oral injuries.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:36 Julie Deardorff
[Comment From LucyLucy: ]
My hockey player had a football injury at 15 that sent him to the hospital for several day and had him in pt for months. We had him do 2 more months of pt than the insurance company paid for on the advice of his doctor and therapist. Do you think that younger athletes need more rehab, not less (than adults) to prevent future (and chronic) injury?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:36 Lucy
Excellent question, Lucy! Unfortunately, it's a question without an answer. It depends on the nature of the injury, the severity and any other associated issues in terms of past injuries, like injuries or referral injuries. I do worry that young athletes don't receive as much quality care as they need in terms of PT. Too ofen, the notion is he/she "are young and strong", but in reality that kind of thinking can lead to future injuries due to a lack of return to sport care. It's one thing to get a young athlete from the point of injury into normal function... But normal function isn't measured as it relates to what their bodies must endure on the field or court.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:39 Brian Grasso
[Comment From drkmbrowndrkmbrown: ]
Mr. Grasso, would you care to comment on the value of free play for young children?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:40 drkmbrown
Excellent question, Dr. Brown! Free play is an absolute must for all children. In the condensed space and time I have here, let me explain it this way.... Proper human growth and development (including emotional, cognitive, physical, neural and MANY other factors) is dependent on a child's interaction with the world through play. We MUST stop forcing young people to 'compete' and 'learn' specific aspects of sport and provide them opportunity to explore the world of movement on their own accord... Free Play. If you learn nothing from this Web Chat, please - remember this!
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:43 Brian Grasso
[Comment From MarciMarci: ]
I ran competitively in high school and college, and did not start becoming plagued with injuries until the last 7 years. I'm reading about how "less is more" with respect to running shoes and am wondering how I should outfit my children who also want to start running like their mom. I'd like to start them off on the right path and not make them dependent on orthotics and motion control shoes, etc. Where do you stand on the whole barefoot running movement?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:44 Marci
Through the years of me working in the youth sports industry, I have traveled all over the world and learned much from observation. Here's what I know to be true... 1) In virtually every other part of the world, shoes are considered an after-thought with respect to sport. I've watched kids in New Zealand, Australia and all through Europe compete in track meets, rugby games and soccer practicies entirely barefoot. 2) The more we restrict the human body from free movement, the more reliant we are making it on make-shift, external support. Although I have no evidence on the matter, my feeling is that barefoot play and training is essental... And that the fixation on shoes is a North American fascination.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:47 Brian Grasso
[Comment From LucyLucy: ]
On the subject of concussions: Should there be mandatory time off in youth sports for athletes who suffer a concussion?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:47 Lucy
More and more organizations and groups are recommending this. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued new concussion guidelines and they include gradually returning a child to activity instead of letting them go full speed once they feel better, and never letting an athlete return to play on the same day he or she has suffered a concussion.
Ten years ago, an athlete who "had his bell rung" would have been allowed to return to the game as soon as 15 minutes after his symptoms cleared.
The AAP also recommends that athletes be restricted from physical activity until they have no symptoms, while at rest or play. "Physical and cognitive exertion, such as homework, playing video games, using a computer or watching TV may worsen symptoms," the guidelines say.
Symptoms of a concussion usually resolve in 7 to 10 days, but some athletes may take weeks or months to fully recover. The AAP recommends that athletes who have had multiple concussions or suffered post-concussive symptoms for more than three months consider retiring from contact sports.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:48 Julie Deardorff
[Comment From StevenSteven: ]
Brian, How should one go about seeking a competent strength and conditioning coach for their high school athlete? Or more accurately how can you insure that your son or daughter's coach is competent in teaching strength movements?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:50 Steven
Yup... That's a great question. Not all doctors, teachers, police officers or reporters are created equally. Same holds true for Strength Coaches. My suggestion to be an ambitious consumer and check on the following... 1) Are they certified? 2) Ask them to explain to you their philosophy on strength training. If they don't have one, walk away. If they do, it should be based on a teaching system. 3) Ask to speak to the PARENTS of their other current young athletes and make sure to ask those parents if they are satisifed with the teaching portion of this Coaches philosopy.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:51 Brian Grasso
The questions are coming in fast so I'm going to sneak in one of my own: Do travel teams increase the risk of injury?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:52 Julie Deardorff
In most cases, absolutely.
Hyper-focus on single-sport and over-patterninzation are incredibly destructive to young, developing bodies.
Travel sports have become one of the biggest mistakes our society has ever made with respect to youth athletics and proper development.
Look at it this way (again)?.. If your 9 year son were to have every single academic subject taken away from his daily schooling (with the exception of math) what kind of intelligence, logic and all-around mental capacity would he have in 5 years? For all intents and purposes, he'd have an 'injured brain' in terms of proper cognitive development.
Why more parents can't understand that equation (single-sport versus single-academic) is something I don't think I will ever understand.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:53 Brian Grasso
[Comment From lorilori: ]
what about leagues where the coaches are the dads and can't diagnose a concussion? My 10 yr old plays football, and an opponent hit his knee on my son's helmet. The opponent had to be taken by ambulance from the field, however my son stayed in the game. The coaches just told him to shake it off and he finished the game. I didn't notice any throwing up by him or anything, but I could tell he took quite a shot. Should I have taken him to a doctor?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:54 lori
Lori, concussions don't always have symptoms you can see. If you're the least bit concerned take him to the doctor. Also look for subtle signs, including mood changes or personality changes, such as crying at the drop of a hat. Brian may want to add to this.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:57 Julie Deardorff
I've never liked the 'just shake it off' mentality. There's been recent news about youth-based concussions causing cognitive issued later in life. I think it's important not to be an alarmist, but at the same time, intelligent caution is never a bad thing.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:58 Brian Grasso
[Comment From TeriTeri: ]
Can you please comment on when it is appropriate to start weight training. My 13 year old ( 7th grader) is 5'10 and weighs 149 lbs. I am worried that his coaches are encouraging him to get into weight training because he's a big kid. what do you think?
Tuesday January 18, 2011 12:59 Teri
Teri, here's more info that may help answer that question.
Weight training is not as dangerous as its been made out to be. Young kids carry groceries in from the car; they jump off swings that are as high as 7 feet in the air. The reality is that external loading is normal, safe and absolutely necessary from injury prevention. Having said that, the dangers of weight room activity when poorly educated Coaches are in charge is something we all must be very concerned about. All strength training must be developmentally-based and teaching-oriented.
Tuesday January 18, 2011 1:01 Brian Grasso
That's going to wrap up today. Thanks, everyone for participating and sorry we couldn't answer all the questions. Feel free to email Brian with specific questions at email@example.com
Also, join us at noon CT (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT) on Tuesday, Jan. 25 for a skeptical look at "detoxing" ? a popular, age-old therapy for a wide, wide range of ailments, from autism to Alzheimer's. What's the science to support the idea that we are all contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants and need to be "detoxed? Are "detoxing" methods like chelation safe? What about the lab testing done to show "toxic" loads of metals and other chemicals?
Moderator Trine Tsouderos will be joined by Dr. Stephen Barrett, who operates quackwatch.com.
If you are unable to make the chat, or would like to send your question in advance, e-mail Trine Tslouderos at firstname.lastname@example.org.