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Living Well

Sports Injuries Sideline Youth and Adults: How to Get Back on the Field

Last updated: May 09, 2016

A baseball pitcher tears his rotator cuff after years of repeating the same throwing motion. A soccer player develops inflammation in her knee from running and stopping abruptly. A snowboarder, who was not using a protective guard, falls and breaks his wrist.

Sports injuries account for nearly one-third of all injuries in children—and sideline millions of adults each year too. Some of the most common problems athletes experience include muscle strains, tendon tears, and fractured bones. These injuries often occur from overuse, improper training, structural weaknesses, collisions, falls, or improper gear. When an athlete is injured, orthopedists and sports medicine specialists at Summit Medical Group devise a treatment plan that will get them back on the field as quickly and safely as possible.

“Sports are an important part of any athlete’s life and help contribute to healthy living, self-esteem, and team building,” says Jason Garcia, MD, a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Summit Medical Group. “When an injury occurs, our philosophy is to minimize the amount of down time for the athlete and maximize the healing process so that they can get back to their sport without putting themselves in a position to be reinjured.”

We See Athletes Right Away  

Many players who are injured during a game are taken to the emergency room for acute splinting or pain management. However, Richard Rosa, MD, a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon at Summit Medical Group, advises athletes to call their office instead.

“We give preference to athletes with acute injuries and make it our goal to see them within 24 hours,” says Dr. Rosa. “Since sports injuries are not usually seen as a priority in the emergency room, these patients often wait for hours only to end up in our office a few days later. With athletes, it is important to come up with a plan as soon as possible because you begin to lose muscle mass immediately.”

For emergencies, the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Department also offers walk-in clinic hours. Experts are on call to evaluate orthopedic injuries such as compound fractures and ruptured Achilles tendons.

Why Sports Injuries Are on the Rise

Each year, 3.5 million children and teenagers are injured playing sports. Nearly 40 percent of these injuries require emergency care.

Dr. Garcia warns that one of the biggest culprits of these injuries is what he calls the “professionalization” of youth sports.

“When I was young, everyone played different sports each season. Today, starting at eight years old, some kids are professionalizing and playing one sport all year round,” explains Dr. Garcia. “This has caused a large increase in overuse injuries, which occur when there are repetitive motions over a prolonged period of time. As a result, some of these children end up wearing out a joint or muscle.”

Dr. Rosa says we need to educate parents and coaches that children should take at least one season off from a sport each year. Repetitive stress and overuse can have a long-term detrimental impact, he says, whereas playing multiple sports contributes to the young athlete’s overall development.

“I always tell my patients even Derek Jeter took four months off a year,” says Dr. Garcia. “Parents may think playing the same sport will increase their child’s chance of playing in college, but this often leads to injury. Research also shows that athletes have a greater chance of success in the higher ranks if they play multiple sports.”

It is important that all athletes—particularly young adults—are properly trained and do not overexert their muscles. “In the beginning, less is more,” says Dr. Rosa. “Today, we also see a lot of weekend warriors—young adults who play a sport recreationally and think they can do everything at once when they may not have been on the field since high school.”

How to Treat Sports Injuries

Sports medicine specialists like Dr. Rosa customize treatments based on the sport the athlete plays and the time of the year they are injured. For example, if a football player pulls their groin muscle in April, they have several months to heal before the season begins. As a result, Dr. Rosa can explore a more conservative approach.

“If an athlete injuries themselves right before the season we try to find a way to get them back to the sport so they do not miss an entire season,” says Dr. Rosa. “Similarly, if an athlete endures a mild injury at the end of a season we try to modify our treatment plan so we can keep them in the sport for as long as it is safe.”

Some injuries, such as an ankle fracture or an ACL tear in the knee, need a hard cast or surgical reconstruction to heal. While others, including muscle strains, ligament sprains, or tendinitis may get better with rest and time alone.
Dr. Garcia says they try to be as conservative as possible, particularly with younger patients. Their first line of treatment is always Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE), along with an appropriate physical therapy program. When these modalities are not enough, they also prescribe medications that reduce inflammation or injections, such as cortisone or platelet rich plasma, which can help accelerate the healing process.

Sports medicine specialists
will see athletes within 24 hours.
To make an appointment, call 973-736-9980.

If you need acute emergency care,
visit the Sports Medicine walk-in clinic


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