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Prevention Is Key In Sports Medicine

This year, more than 30 million children and teens will participate in organized sports, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Whether a child is playing basketball or football, running cross country or joining the swim team, the risk of injury is relatively high. Each year 3 million injuries occur that cause some loss of participation time, according to the AAP. Memorial Hospital of Converse County Orthopedic Surgeon Scott Croft said some injuries can be prevented with proper precautions, equipment and care.

"In sports medicine, prevention is always the goal we stress," Croft said. "The important part of prevention is stretching, strengthening and knowing your limits. It's important to gradually increase your level of activity."

Stretching, adequate warming up and good conditioning before participating in any physical activity is the key to avoiding injury. Because about one-third of all injuries that occur during childhood are related to sports activities, teaching proper techniques to avoid injury can keep a child from being included in the injury statistics.

Another way to prevent injuries is to use all of the proper protection equipment for each sport. Whether it's a helmet and pads for football or knee pads for volleyball, safety equipment is essential in preventing injuries, Croft said.

"Wear all the normal protective gear for whatever sport you're participating in," Croft said. "For example, wrist braces can be very effective in preventing injuries in snowboarding, skiing and skateboarding."

As more and more research is being done on head injuries and the long-term effects of concussions, Croft said it's important to take all safety precautions to protect the head when playing any sports. Wearing a helmet is absolutely essential for protection when participating in everything from bike riding to playing football. The majority of head injuries sustained in sports or recreational activities occur during bicycling, skateboarding, or skating incidents.

"Helmets are extremely important," Croft said. "We're more and more aware of how susceptible these kids are to repeated head injury."

When any type of sports related injury does occur, Croft said it's important to seek medical treatment quickly. Prolonging treatment can lengthen the healing process and make it more difficult to address the problem.

"If they hurt for more than 24 hours, bring them in," Croft said. "For kids, it's almost always a fracture, not a strain."

Even though the injury may create the need for a visit to the orthopedic department at Memorial Hospital of Converse County, it doesn't always immediately mean surgery. After assessment and proper diagnosis, then a treatment plan is put into place.

"We try to treat non-surgically as our first step with bracing, physical therapy," Croft said. "We exhaust non-operative measures and use surgery as a last resort."

Memorial Hospital of Converse County has a number of rehabilitation services available, including several physical therapists on staff who specialize in sports related injuries. With whirlpools and a rehab gym, patients receive cutting edge treatment, including electrical stimulation, dry needling and physiotaping, a relatively new treatment that helps in the healing process.

When surgery is necessary, Memorial Hospital of Converse County has two board certified orthopedic surgeons, Croft and Dr. Pat Robertson. Both have many years of experience in fracture care and extensive training, both with a background of having worked for the United States Army.

"We have a lot of experience and we keep up on the latest techniques," Croft said. "Usually with a combination of physical therapy and/or surgery, most of the time we can get our patients back to where they were – that's very rewarding."