Sports Medicine
11:40 am
Wed September 5, 2012

The Safety of Young Athletes Takes Center Stage As Football Season Gets Underway

It's football season and for many young athletes that means lots of practices and training to get in shape for the big game every week. It's also a prime time for these players to get injured. Drew Ferguson is a licensed athletic trainer and Director of Sports Medicine at Children's Hospital of Alabama. Ferguson says extra care needs to be taken at youth levels to keep players safe because they lack the resources of the older counterparts.


“Senior high, college, or certainly professional they’re surrounded with a great deal of support in terms of their medical care, their coaching, and safety that a lot of these younger kids don’t have especially in the rural communities.”


Ferguson says prior to 2010 they maybe saw 20 concussions during a school year. After the Alabama High School Athletic Association and the state of Alabama added a concussion rule to their regulations in 2010, the number of reported concussions jumped to 60 for the school year. The increase was even more the following year…


“This past year, after the state law was passed, we saw 360 in our concussion clinic. It was a 500 percent increase and I don’t think we had that many more concussions. We had that much more awareness that they needed to be checked out.”


Concussions are one of those injuries that can happen at any time, but over the course of a season there are times where certain injuries are more prevalent than others. Ferguson says the weather in the early part of the season, before it cools off for fall, can be a challenge for young athletes.


“There’s conditioning and then there’s football conditioning where you’re having contact during practice and usually it takes about 10 days to acclimatize and get into the condition to go through a practice and we see a lot of muscle cramping.”


Ferguson says one of the big problems they see is that kids nowadays are constantly playing a sport or multiple sports, and they don’t give their bodies a chance to rest. He says that sometimes the best way to prevent injury is to take some time off and do a little less.



Transcript of Ryan's conversation...


(Ferguson): The older kids that are skeletally mature and the adults, it’s a whole different ball game. Where they can learn the skills and they’re either playing senior high or college or certainly professional where they are surrounded by a great deal of support in terms of their medical care and their coaching and safety that a lot of these younger kids don’t have especially in some of the rural communities.



(Vasquez): With this particular age group, the younger age group, are there things that you look for or that you look to prevent more so then other age groups?



(Ferguson): Absolutely, in a developing child, when it comes to their muscular skeletal system, the end of their long bones, their plates are wide open that’s what allows us to grow literally in height. But a lot of these things can be prevented by using proper technique in terms of say little league football and blocking and tackling and eliminating a lot of these drills when they do hit their head on the ground or hit another players helmet or knee where the brain is moved violently inside the skull and they suffer a mild traumatic brain injury which Is what a concussion is and they have those symptoms and they are immediately taken out of the game, not to return that day or certainly not return without a physicians approval and it’s something that were going out of our way to educate the public as well as coaches, parents and athletes.



(Vasquez): Have you seen over the past couple of years a higher prevalence of a certain type of injury amongst young athletes?



(Ferguson): The concussion for instance, prior to 2010 we’d see probably about 20 in a years time, in a school year. And in the high school athletic association in the state of Alabama added the concussion rule to their rules and regulations in 2010 we say about 60. And in this past year after the state law was passed we say 360 in our concussion clinic, there was a 500% increase, and I don’t think we had that many more concussions, it’s that we had that much more awareness that they needed to be checked out.



(Vasquez): We’re kicking off the football season for high school and a lot of younger sport levels as well, is there a particular time of year where they see a higher prevalence of injury?



(Ferguson): Well, particularly in football you’re going to go through an acclimatization period in the south with the heat and humidity and that’s why the rules require them to go three days in shorts before they go in full pads. So, there’s conditioning and then there’s football conditioning where you’re having contact during practice and usually it takes ten days to acclimatize and get into the condition to go through a practice. We see a lot of muscle cramping and you need to be paying attention to hydration so that you’re replenishing the water weight that you lose between practices and those types of things. Then after they get into the season, sometimes they can sustain a little nagging injury that they continue to practice and play and it becomes regressively worse, so it (the injury) holds them out when if they were to stay out initially when they had it and rehabilitated it (the injury). If it (the injury) didn’t require surgery then they would have had a better chance of going through the rest of the season without it preventing them from playing or lessen their affect in this depending on the position they play.