Treating the Injuries of Adolescent Athletes


Joanne Borg-Stein, assistant professor, Harvard Medical School discusses sports injuries in adolescents through the lens of obesity.

Treating the injured adolescent athlete appropriately requires a multi-faceted approach to ensure optimal recovery and future health, explained Joanne Borg-Stein, MD, in her presentation “Physical Medicine for Adolescents: Sports Injury Diagnosis and Rehabilitation,” during Pri-Med NY 2010, June 18.

Borg-Stein is an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.

Properly educating parents, caregivers, and coaches is an essential part of rehabilitating these injured patients, she said.

While the presentation primarily focused on discussing common sport injuries in adolescent patients, Borg-Stein kicked off her talk by first discussing the rising prevalence of childhood obesity.

“Childhood obesity is a key public health issue,” she said. “Physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle are risk factors for childhood and adult obesity and shortened lifespan.”

Borg-Stein said it was important to begin educating children in the preschool years to prevent future obesity. Designing exercise programs catered to the age and enjoyment of the child is critical as well, she said.

When considering entering a child into a sports program, she said, it was essential to consider the child’s “Sport Readiness.” This consists of the “physical, cognitive, and emotional development that allows the acquisition of the necessary skills to meet the demands of the sport,” she said.

There are a number of injuries associated with younger athletes. For example, developing athletes are more likely to sustain growth plate injuries. Low back pain injuries, cervical spine injuries, SI Joint dysfunction, are all some of the common injuries found as well and each sport also has certain injuries associated with it, she said.

As a result, it is necessary to be aware of prevention methods. Borg-Stein said trainers should be mindful of weaknesses in areas associated with the sport during pre-training, that coaches should be trained on how to better condition and train the athletes, and that coaches and trainers be knowledgeable in the proper rehabilitation techniques.

The principals of rehabilitation that she outlined were:

-Keeping in mind the patient’s stage of maturation

-Controlling inflammation and pain

-Promoting healing

-Restoring function

-Safely returning to the sport

-Preventing further injury

In deciding whether an athlete should return to the game it is essential to consider:

-The diagnosis

-How intense the sport is in relation to the injury

-The age or skeletal maturation of the athlete

-The level of cooperation from the coaches, parents, trainers in practicing safe rehabilitating exercises

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