No Vacation From Mishaps
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Injury hasn't stopped Heather Fisher from playing softball. At least not so far.
Last season, the 17-year-old centerfielder's right shoulder started hurting.
"It was so painful," she said. "There were days I couldn't lift my arm high enough to throw anything."
Her doctor told her to take the year off. Fisher refused. Two cortisone shots and a number of physical therapy sessions later, the pain only got worse. Another doctor told her that overusing her arm had torn her rotator cuff and labrum -- the ring of cartilage that surrounds the upper end of the arm bone.
For many teen athletes, like Fisher, summer is no vacation. It's the time they step up their training with traveling teams, overnight sports camps and twice-a-day practices.
No wonder, doctors say, they are seeing a substantial growth in overuse injuries, raising questions about how hard parents, coaches and young athletes themselves are pushing bodies that aren't ready for such stress.
"It's an epidemic to me," said Sally Harris of Palo Alto Medical Foundation's sports medicine department. "The training for kids is more and more intense."
This summer she has seen nearly twice as many overuse injuries in teenagers as she did last summer, she said.
Overuse accounts for nearly half of all sports injuries in teens, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to preventing accidental injury in children.
A decade ago, overuse injuries were an adults-only problem, Harris said. Now damage and inflammation caused by repetitive motion -- such as a swimming stroke -- are common among younger athletes.
Girls going through puberty are especially at risk, as their legs and hips begin to change, Harris said.
And some injuries are unique to teens.