Play now, pay later: Inside the rising injuries of youth sports

PIX11-TV--New York—November 11, 2013

Over 4.5 million children play youth sports every year. Many of them have dreams of someday playing in the big leagues. 3.5 million get injured each year and for some that dream ends too soon. Those injuries are up by 60 percent for baseball and football alone over the last decade.

“Baseball, that’s everything, that’s my pride and joy, that’s my childhood.” Peter Guzman, 20, used to be a star pitcher. He says he could throw up to 88 miles-an-hour when he was just 15.

Kyle Gribbins, 18, also grew up loving America’s pastime, “Baseball for a good part of my life was probably the most important thing.”

After giving so much to the game, they didn’t get what they wanted in return.

“First I had a partial torn ligament on my right elbow, and the physical therapist said just keep working out,” Guzman described.  So, he did what he was told, worked on strengthening his arm.

“Six months later, I got a second opinion and by doing all this, now it’s completely torn, it was completely off the bone,” Guzman remembered.

Gribbins had a similar experience, “At the time of my injury I was 16, I was actually pitching better than I ever had before. I heard a pop in my elbow and I just kind of felt it, it tore immediately.”

The first doctor told him it was just a sprain so he proceeded to do physical therapy. “I realized it wasn’t getting any better so I went to a different doctor and he told me immediately, yeah there’s definitely a tear.”

That doctor was Dr. David Altchek, an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. “It’s the only sport that loads one ligament every time to almost the maximum the ligament can withstand,” he explains.

Guzman and Gribbins have more than just the game they love in common. They both have torn their ulnar collateral ligament, also known as the Tommy John injury.

“When the injury occurs before the growth plates are closed the treatment of the injury is much more complex and the results are clearly not as good,” Dr. Altchek said.

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MINIMIZING THE RISK:

For baseball players with dreams of pitching in the big leagues. There are ways to minimize the risk of eventually developing the Tommy John injury, Dr. Altchek said the first step is getting on shoulder maintenance program. He explained that the elbow injury comes after the should become fatigued. When the shoulder becomes fatigued, the elbow starts doing even more work, causing more stress and more damage. Dr. Altchek added that every pitcher needs to get enough rest. This is very important for the body, specifically the arm, to recover. He believes at least three days is necessary after pitching in a game but said that number goes up with the number of pitches thrown in a game. The third and final tip is to not throw in showcases when you’re out of condition. While, many athletes believe that might be the one time they get noticed by a college coach or team scout, Dr. Altchek said it is not worth the risk. Dr. Altchek said, “I don’t have any scientific numbers but I can almost guarantee your injury incidents will go down by 50 percent and that’s pretty significant.”

Read the full story at pix11.com.

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