hasn’t – and probably will never – stop Heather Fisher from playing
season, the 17-year-old centerfielder’s right shoulder started hurting.
sucked,” she said. “It was so painful. There were days I couldn’t lift my
arm high enough to throw anything.”
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.
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 practice
twice a day.
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. Muscle, bones, tendons
and ligaments in teens are being stressed beyond their physical limits.
an epidemic to me,” said Dr. Sally Harris of Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s
sports medicine department. “The training for kids is more and more
summer she has seen nearly twice as many overuse injuries in teenagers than last
summer – or even the recent school year, she said.
injuries account for nearly half of all sports injuries in teens, according to
Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to preventing accidental
young athletes are not sleeping till noon, watching daytime television and
gorging on junk food.
concept is seen as utter weakness,” said Dr. Scott Hoffinger, an orthopedic
surgeon at Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland, Calif.
“It’s like the Marines. But you’re not storming beaches of Normandy. You
don’t need to be bloody and dragging along.”
decade ago, overuse injuries were an adults-only problem, Harris said. Now
damage and inflammation caused by repetitious motion – such as a swimming
stroke – are now common among younger athletes.
going through puberty are especially at risk, as their legs and hips begin to
change, Harris said.
some injuries are unique to teens.
said she treats stress fractures of the spine – an uncommon injury she had
previously seen only once a month – at least twice a week this summer.
High-impact sports twist and hyperextend the spine.
can usually heal in a month or two. But untreated, like other high-impact
injuries, Harris said, such stress fractures can lead to a slipped disc or
to blame? Parents, coaches and athletes all play a part.
recalled a mother who broke down crying when she was told her baseball-playing
son wouldn’t be able to pitch for a year.
are everything to us – that’s the pronoun she used,” Hoffinger said.
coaches believe young athletes can play in pain like professional athletes do,
doctors said. But while it’s OK for adults to push through discomfort, like
tennis elbow, it’s detrimental to growing teens.
hard to tell people to cut back,” Harris said. “It’s not what they want to
hear. They want the problem fixed quickly without affecting participation.”
said she has a hard time convincing families to skip summer sports camps before
a minor injury turns into something more permanent.
seems like common sense, but athletes and parents lose perspective when
they’re wrapped up in it and put money out for it,” Harris said. “It’s
hard to sit back and say it doesn’t matter if my kid can’t do a camp for one
athletes push themselves.
got surgery to fix her rotator cuff and labrum tear. Despite the pleas of her
doctor and physical therapist, she still plays summer league and intends to play
this high school season.
don’t think I ever could take a break,” she said. “I’m so used to going
hard, playing my best. In games I’ll play as hard as I can, then go, “ow,
Dowd, 15, aspires to play volleyball in college like her older sister. Her
freshman year on the Leigh High School varsity team, she got shin splints. Now
during summer conditioning, just as she’s begun her career as a setter, she
began to develop tendonitis in her hands.
has been a big help in my life so far,” said Dowd.
Milioto, 15, of San Jose, Calif., has been attending summer baseball camps since
he was 8.
kind of have to keep going all year,” he said, “so you can hit that 80 mph
Jose 12-year-old Alli Rao is attending 18 volleyball camps this summer. Ann
Pardon, 13, is going to six.
athletes don’t know their limits, unlike adults who, with more experience, can
self regulate their exercise, said Dr. Michael Henehan, director of the San
Jose-O’Connor Hospital Stanford Affiliated Sports Medicine Fellowship Program.
the coach says run 100 miles in the sun, they’re going to do it because
that’s what coach told them to do,” he said.
and moderation are the only ways to curb injuries among competitive teens.
are breaking down bone faster than their bodies can repair, Harris said.
Garza, a coach for USA Seventeen Youth Soccer Academy in Santa Clara, Calif.,
said teens need to beat the system. Often club season overlaps high school
season, leaving athletes without a break.
society here, more is better and someone is always working harder or doing
more” than you, he said.
a number of Garza’s boys have opted out of playing high school sports to
recover and work on personal skills.
Crawford of Sunnyvale, Calif., said she worries about her 12-year-old daughter
Shayna, especially after she developed a spinal stress fracture following a
winter volleyball camp.
is pressure,” said Crawford, watching Shayna play at a Santa Clara University
summer camp. “You can’t do high school unless you do this. We don’t do the
power teams, we just do the local thing. I don’t want her to burn out. I could
be wrong. I just don’t want to push her.”
percent of all sports injuries treated in emergency rooms happen to children
ages 5 to 14.
percent of parents report that their child has been injured while playing a team
percent of traumatic brain injuries to children are sports and recreation
Kid’s injuries by sport
of children ages 5 to 14 treated in emergency rooms for injuries in 2004, by
Safe Kids Worldwide