Increase in youth sports injuries raises concerns

PARKLAND, Fla. – Daniella Castillo is among more than 30 million American children and teenagers taking part in organized sports.

For over a decade, she’s devoted herself to gymnastics.

“I like that it’s super challenging,” she said.

Meeting that challenge left her with a severe knee injury, causing her to become one of the more than 3.5 million kids injured in organized sports every year.

“People are getting injured at a more frequent and serious level than they were in the past, so we are seeing a whole host of injuries we only used to see in adults now happening at the pediatric level,” said Dr. Jeremy Frank with the U-18 Sports Medicine program at Memorial Healthcare.

Frank said knee injuries like Castillo’s have risen over 400% in the last 10 to 15 years, which is why programs that focus on prevention are so important.

“We teach athletes how to land appropriately, how to train appropriately and how to build up strength,” Frank said.

While the number of serious shoulder and elbow injuries among juvenile baseball and softball players has grown five-fold, Frank said children are most vulnerable to injuries involving growth plates, which are soft areas of developing tissues.

“So we need to do specific surgery that protects their growth plate to ensure these kids are going to grow as tall as they should be and that their limbs are of equal length,” Frank said.

Following surgery and physical therapy with the U-18 program, Castillo is back on the beam and now looking forward to a full gymnastics scholarship to the University of Iowa.

Her advice to young athletes is straight forward.

“I think if you’re able to push through then push through but if you can’t anymore, you need to tell somebody because your injury can get a lot worse and there’s no way to come back from that,” Castillo said.

Sports medicine experts believe children shouldn’t start specializing in one sport until after puberty and should take two months off from organized sports to reduce the risk of injuries caused by repetitive use.

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