Article reposted from News-Press.com
Author: Kali Lynch
The start of the new school year brings the return of competitive fall sports and the opportunity to address sports injury prevention. A safe season and sports career includes an annual physical and education, as well as proper training and oversight.
Annual sports physical/medical screening
In order to participate in high school sports, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) requires an annual preparticipation physical evaluation before practice even begins. Many Lee Physician Group pediatricians and family medicine physicians complete this evaluation, which includes a review of the child’s medical history and a physical exam. The review includes everything from height, weight, hearing, blood pressure, pulse and vision to questions about chest pain, dizziness, racing hearts, family medical issues and more. The sports physical provides valuable insight and helps determine if it is safe for the student athlete to participate in the sport, or if there are health issues that can interfere with participation.
A sports physical may not be required, but is just as important for children younger than high-school age, especially those participating in club or year-round sports. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about addressing athletic issues during his or her annual well-child visit. It is important for you to take this opportunity because the annual physical usually focuses on a more general wellness check and may not include sports-related tips and information.
Another valuable screening tool for young athletes is an electrocardiogram (EKG), which can detect a child’s risk for sudden cardiac death. The result of unexpected, unrecognized heart disease, sudden cardiac death can be the result of certain conditions, including, but not limited to:
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy—a condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick
- Long QT syndrome—a heart rhythm disorder that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats
- Wolff-Parkinson-White—an extra electrical pathway in the heart that causes a rapid heartbeat
Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida offers free EKGs to middle and high school-aged athletes. This screening tool is not required or offered based on any specific sign or symptom; rather it is available for any child in order to provide peace of mind for children and families.
“This cardiovascular screening initiative is intended to prospectively identify or raise suspicion of previously unrecognized, underlying heart conditions known to cause sudden cardiac death in young people,“ explains Suying Lam, M.D., pediatric cardiologist. “This screening does not replace routine sports physicals and clearance for these student athletes; instead it provides an extra layer of prevention that all kids deserve.”
The EKG is painless and is performed by placing stickers and wires on the chest, arms and legs in order to evaluate the electrical activity of the heart. “Dr. Eric Eason (pediatric cardiologist) and I review all of the EKGs and, if necessary, provide recommendations for further evaluations,” Dr. Lam says.
Learn about sports-related Injuries
Mark Tesoro, injury prevention educator with Lee Memorial Health System’s Trauma Center, says approximately 38 million kids participate in organized sports in the United States, and about 1.35 million are seen in emergency departments for sports-related injuries each year. This means approximately one out of every 10 kids become injured on the field. Of those injuries, about half are believed to be preventable. Sports-related injuries include sprains, strains, dehydration, fractures, abrasions, overuse injuries, concussions and more.
Concussions are considered a traumatic brain injury and are, therefore, one of the more serious sports injuries. Tesoro says concussions are most often associated with football, but statistics show they also frequently occur in basketball, soccer, baseball and ice hockey. Tesoro adds that while there is a lot more focus on prevention today, especially in youth sports, there also are a number of myths about concussions. He lays out a few of the more common concussion myths:
Myth No. 1: You lose consciousness when you have a concussion. “False,” he says. “Most concussions occur without the loss of consciousness.”
Myth No.2: You are more likely to have a concussion during a game rather than practice. “False again,” he says. “Most concussions occur during a practice, which makes sense based on frequency—you practice much more than you play in actual games.”
Myth No. 3: You have to hit your head to have a concussion. “No, you do not have to hit your head to have a concussion,” Tesoro says. “A severe jolt to the body can cause enough head movement to cause a concussion.”
He says it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions, which may not always be immediately apparent, and can include headache or a feeling of pressure in the head; confusion or feeling as if in a fog; dizziness or “seeing stars”; ringing in the ears; nausea; vomiting; slurred speech; appearing dazed; fatigue and delayed response to questions.
“There are serious complications that can arise if a concussion is not properly addressed and treated,” Tesoro says. “If you or someone you are with experiences a blow to the head, neck or upper body, seek medical attention immediately and certainly before returning to play.”
Locally, the Youth Sports Safety Program of the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition brings health and safety professionals together to foster a safe community. Together, the Lee Memorial Health System Trauma Center, STOP Sports Injuries and Safe Kids Lee/Collier Counties focus on prevention and education by hosting local events, participating in presentations, and offering a variety of educational materials for athletes, parents, coaches and referees.
Trust the athletic trainers
Certified athletic trainers are highly educated and qualified, multi-skilled professionals who specialize in athletic health care. Working under the direction of a physician, athletic trainers provide injury/illness prevention and wellness protection; clinical evaluation and diagnosis; immediate and emergency care, treatment and rehabilitation; and organizational and professional health and well-being for injuries and medical conditions.
Certified athletic trainers are important members of the sports team. In fact, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians agree that athletic trainers should be an integral part of all high school athletic programs for many reasons.
Tesoro explains that athletic trainers help with:
- Prevention – Athletic trainers regularly communicate with coaches and athletes about what can be done to prevent injuries.
- Recognition – If something does happen during a game or practice, an athletic trainer can identify the injury and decide the best course of treatment, as well as provide rehabilitation in returning to sport. The athletic trainers typically stabilize the athletes and educate the parents on where to receive proper follow-up care and insure the “golden hour of recognition,” which is proven to produce the best possible outcomes for injured athletes.
- Education – Athletic injuries come with a lot of questions from players, coaches, parents and administrators. There are also many questions about making school athletics safer. Athletic trainers can help the school make policy changes to increase student safety.
- Determination – The decision to play or sit out isn’t always easy. The athletic trainers’ sole purpose is safety, not wins; therefore, the athletic trainers evaluate injuries and make the decision whether the athlete returns to play or not.
Lee Memorial Health System works closely with the School District of Lee County to ensure the safety of student athletes.
“Lee Memorial Health System currently employs three certified athletic trainers who provide services in Lee County schools,” explains Jamie Kohl, a system-employed certified athletic trainer. “Together with four other certified athletic trainers who are employed by the school district, we cover all FHSAA sanctioned sports. We are present at practices and competitions during the school year, and student athletes have access to us throughout the week.”
Additionally, the athletic trainers join the Sports Medicine Team, which is led by orthopedic surgeon Abbott “Bo” Kagan, M.D., and includes other local physicians, physical therapists and resident physicians from the Florida State University College of Medicine Family Medicine Residency Program at Lee Memorial Health System. A key initiative for the Sports Medicine Team is concussion testing and awareness.
The Sports Medicine Team developed a pathway for concussion testing and awareness that involves ImPACT testing, which is a computerized concussion evaluation system. This year, the athletic trainers baseline tested more than 1,000 public school athletes.
A grant from the Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition and Lee County Public Safety provided funding for the School District of Lee County to purchase the state-of-the-art ImPACT software, which assesses a student athlete’s attention span, memory, reaction time, non-verbal problem-solving and more.
In the event of a concussion, the athletic trainer is the first medical professional in contact with the student athlete. “We facilitate the concussion pathway through first administering sideline concussion assessment tools,” Kohl explains. “The initial post-concussion ImPACT test is administered 48-72 hours post-injury. Repeat post-concussion tests are given at appropriate intervals depending on the severity of the concussion.”
In cases that are not emergencies, Kohl says the athletic trainers refer the student athlete to his or her primary care doctor. If a primary care physician has not been established, then the athletic trainer refers the student athlete to the physicians at the Florida State University College of Medicine Family Medicine Residency Program at Lee Memorial Health System.
Sports teach young athletes a variety of life lessons, including discipline, teamwork, goal-setting and time management, among other important values. Participating in sports keeps children active and healthy, but safety and injury prevention must be the No. 1 priority—and that is possible with proper medical care, education and oversight.