The term "overuse" is getting increasing attention in the field of sports medicine. It affects older athletes and poses even more severe threats for younger ones.
Camilla A. Herrera, writing in the Stamford, Conn., Advocate, says many may wonder why this could be a problem. Some who express concern about growing childhood obesity consider interest in sports a good thing. So what is the peril from "overuse"?
Listen to Paul Sethi, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist in Greenwich, Conn.: "I do more than 300 surgeries a year but at least half of them are on kids under 21." He agrees that the emphasis on professional and high-level college sports has too many young people, and their parents, thinking of victory and glory regardless of the physical price. So they overdo things. How much of that occurs in the many youth athletic programs in the Lawrence area? The danger is worth consideration.
Sethi thinks such dreams are supported by a culture that strongly endorses pushing through pain. A former college football player and wrestler cautions that children who actively participate in sports and in some cases actually train like professionals need to be carefully monitored and treated properly to prevent "overuse" injuries.
Did "overuse" affect the professional career of former Kansas basketball All-American Danny Manning? In a demanding five-month period of 1987-88, Manning was the hub of a KU team that won the national collegiate title. Almost immediately after the college season ended, Manning moved to demanding workouts for the '88 U.S. Olympic team. The Olympics ended and the former KU star went right into the professional grind. He soon suffered the first of a series of knee injuries that prevented him from becoming the NBA superstar many felt he would be.
How much did "overuse" factor in to that series of injuries? Would a few weeks off here and there have allowed regeneration of bones, muscles and tissues?
Reporter Herrera notes a rising phenomenon among younger athletes by quoting Lyle Micheli, director of the sports medicine division at Children's Hospital in Boston. He is co-author with Mark Jenkins of the "Sports Medicine Bible for Young Athletes." Says Micheli: "Overuse injuries are the result of repetitive activity in what we call repetitive microtrauma, such as repetitive overhand throwing or running on the ground. The common denominator is usually overtraining, usually too much over too short a time."
Specialization can be costly. Kids used to play several sports with gaps between seasons. Now the "repetition" syndrome in single sports is a threat. Sethi says children have a greater susceptibility to overuse injuries than older athletes.
The solution: Get children into proper physical condition for a sport; make sure they know and abide by the rules; give them proper gear and make sure they know how to use it; warm up before competing; always avoid playing when very tired or in pain. Sports medicine people say there is too much emphasis on youngsters returning to action after injury, increasing the chances for permanent impairment.
It is unfortunate that in an era when so much emphasis is placed on glory, victory and money, the issue of "overuse" is going to keep coming up in sports medicine conversations, particularly where vulnerable youngsters are involved.