Avoiding Athletic Injuries
Young athletes are suffering injuries at a rate 10 times more frequently than in 2000, and the trend is escalating, a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon told a full house of doctors, physical therapists, parents and athletes at the BHP YMCA on Oct. 13.
Dr. James Andrews is dedicated to reversing that trend and getting those athletes “out of the operating room and onto the field.”
“We have been remiss as orthopedic surgeons for years,” he said. “We spend most of our time putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, and we pay very little attention to preventing injuries, particularly when you talk about our young athletes.”
Andrews was in Shreveport to spread his grassroots campaign to prevent these injuries. Earlier this year, the Andrews Institute and Ochsner Health formed a five-year partnership called the Ochsner Andrews Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Institute.
Andrews said the two biggest risk factors are specialization, when a young athlete plays one sport year-round, and professionalism, when a young person, sometimes as young as 6 or 7 years old, trains like a professional athlete.
“Parents mean well,” he said. “They are pushing their young kids. They’re thinking of developing them to get an athletic scholarship. The don’t realize these young kids are not equipped to take that kind of pressure or that kind of training.”
Andrews said young athletes should have at least two months off each year from any sport to recuperate, preferably three or four months. He also discourages playing in multiple leagues at the same time.
“You’ve got be careful with these travel teams,” he said. “They don’t have proper rest.”
He said young female athletes, particularly softball players, see a higher injury rate.
“Softball is notorious for having a vigorous schedule,” he said. “Some athletes play as many as six games in a weekend. The pitchers throw 70 to 100 pitches a game.”
Andrews does encourage athletes who are interested to play multiple sports as long as possible. He said he would avoid specializing in one sport until a young athlete was at least a senior in high school, even if that opens the athlete up to another risk factor — pressure from coaches and parents.
“We have situations now when a kid’s in the seventh grade, and he looks like he’s going to be a very good basketball player,” Andrews said. “The high school basketball coach in that school system tells the parents and tells that kid, ‘If you don’t concentrate in basketball, we won’t have a position for him when he gets to high school.”
He told the crowd that most elite NFL players played more than one sport in high school.
“That was a little bit different climate then,” he said. “Nowadays, the whole emphasis is on concentrating on one sport.”
Andrews has advocated for safer playing conditions for young athletes. One result of his efforts is Alabama’s Coach Safely program, in which youth coaches must pass a two-hour course on injury recognition and prevention.
The goal of youth sports, Andrews said, is to “achieve balance, excellence and a healthy lifestyle, while embracing the value of — and this is what we’ve lost — playing for fun.”
Andrews has become an international authority on sports medicine and has performed procedures on a number of highprofile professional athletes, including retired New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Andrews received his medical degree from Louisiana State University and completed his orthopedic residency at Tulane Medical School.
The partnership between Ochsner Health and the Andrews Institute will enhance Ochsner’s physical therapy and sports performance offerings.
“I am up here figuring out what we can do to help with the sports medicine program. It’s important to me.”
The opportunity to work with Ochsner Health is a sort of homecoming for the Homer native.
“I spent a lot of time in Shreveport when I was growing up,” Andrews said. “I have been interested in giving back to my home state.”