Prevent shoulder injuries in young athletes

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Alarmed by the rising number of young athletes with shoulder and elbow overuse injuries, the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association (IATA) and sports medicine physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush (MOR) are urging high school and travel teams to implement prevention programs for athletes at risk. MOR physicians, who are team doctors for the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls, are working with the IATA to launch Shoulders for Life, a public service campaign urging stricter guidelines for shoulder and elbow use with emphasis on prevention tactics.

A recent study, published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine shows approximately 75 percent of healthy youth baseball players report at least some baseline arm pain and fatigue.

“I see shocking numbers of young volleyball, tennis, baseball, softball and swim team athletes sidelined with shoulder or elbow injuries from overuse,” explains IATA President Mike Sullivan MS, ATC. “Due to stiffer competition, athletes are practicing year round using their arms at faster speeds and with more force than in the past.”

“Five years ago, I was treating athletes with debilitating shoulder and elbow overuse injuries at age 20 or 25,” explains MOR shoulder and elbow surgeon Dr. Anthony Romeo, who performed surgery on White Sox pitchers John Danks and Jake Peavy. “Today, I’m seeing athletes with these conditions at much younger ages — sometimes as young as 15.”

Dr. Romeo and researchers from Rush University Medical Center are using digital imaging to study the biomechanics of pitching. This information will be used to help injured and uninjured pitchers adjust appropriately to perform at an optimal, yet safe level. This team recently presented their research during the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons conference in Las Vegas.  The white paper presentation showed the likelihood of having shoulder and elbow injuries increased based on the height of baseball players and those who threw faster and played on multiple teams.

“The pressure to throw faster at younger ages is creating more injuries,” admits Dr. Gregory Nicholson, MOR shoulder and elbow surgeon. “Major league pitchers are throwing 95 mph and college pitchers are throwing in the low 90’s – so there’s more pressure for competitive high school athletes to reach those speeds.”

For more information, go to www.shouldersforlife.org to download a prevention exercise brochure and order a prevention gym bag tag.

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