Jan 17, 2017
Epidemic Proportions

At the First Annual Andrews Lectureship at Tulane University in December, James Andrews, MD, renowned orthopedic surgeon and a founding member of Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Birmingham, Ala., said that injuries in youth sports have become an “epidemic.”

“Our research indicates that there has been a five- to seven-, and in some cases, ten-fold increase in injuries in youth sports,” Dr. Andrews said. “That’s an epidemic of injuries in kids sports.”

According to sportsNOLA, Dr. Andrews, presenting at the event named in his honor, presented statistics indicating that sports is the leading cause of injury in adolescents. Of the 30 to 45 million athletes who participate in youth sports each year, 3.5 million are treated for sports-related injuries. He concluded that the issue was a major health reform issue and that parents needed to be educated about the risks their children face. For example, he has found that many parents who visit his office are unaware that their children could get hurt while playing soccer.

Dr. Andrews said cheerleaders were among the young athletes who were most susceptible to injury.

“For catastrophic injuries, cheerleaders lead the stats,” he said. “Over the 26 years from 1982 to 2008, they show disabilities caused by head or spine trauma are almost double for high school cheerleaders than for all other female sports combined. There were 73 catastrophic injuries including two deaths during this period.”

Dr. Andrews also said that requiring certification for youth coaches is one step that will help to address this problem, citing studies that show 80 percent of parents believe that testing and certification should be required for anyone who intends to coach.

“Fewer than half of the [youth] coaches say they have received certification,” he said. “Until you mandate certification of youth coaches, you are not going to be able to control youth injuries.”

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