Living Well: Active youth and teens require top-notch sports medicine care
From youth sports to Colorado’s endless outdoor recreation, children and teens are exposed to a plethora of ways to enjoy physical activities on both competitive and recreational levels.
Unfortunately, more activities increases the risk for injuries. Memorial Regional Health provides top-notch sports medicine care for local athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, with the goal of getting the region’s active residents back to enjoying their sports and activities of choice after injuries occur.
Dr. John LeBlanc is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine. He completed fellowship training in sports medicine and is one of only a few physicians in the region with additional certified qualifications in sports medicine. The sports medicine team at MRH provides 24/7 care for youth and adult sports injuries. For young athletes, this care is provided both at practice and sporting events to allow local youth and teen athletes the ability to play safely and at the level for which they strive to excel.
To make an appointment with Dr. LeBlanc, call MRH Orthopaedics at 970-826-2450.
Dr. John LeBlanc, a sports medicine specialist at MRH, along with support from athletic trainers Marshall Kraker and Matthew Hertz, keep local children and teens healthy through injury prevention, quality care and recovery. The team’s expertise is especially helpful during a time when children and teens are so active as their bodies are still developing physically.
Injuries vary in school-aged children vs. teens
As children mature into teens, Dr. LeBlanc said injuries typically evolve from bony injuries to more sprains and ligament injuries.
“This is good for the school-aged children because the bony injuries are less serious and rarely require open surgery. When children become teens, their bones are maturing and there is less chance for the injury to remodel; therefore, surgical intervention is often needed,” he said. “As children are becoming more mature and more active, their bones are constantly trying to play catch up with their ligaments, and there is a lot of stress on their joints.”
Children develop traction injuries — especially on their knees, as well as their ankles — that leave permanent but benign reminders for the rest of their lives, Dr. LeBlanc said.
“These types of injuries occur frequently from jumping sports, such as basketball and volleyball, from repetitive loading of the joints,” he said. “These injuries are mostly temporary and correct themselves as they mature.”
A dislocated kneecap, for example, will correct with non-surgical treatment as a child’s skeletal body matures.
Little league elbow and shoulder injuries can occur from overuse. The elbow injury occurs from a constant loading of the elbow in (baseball) pitching, which can progress to a serious injury to the cartilage in the child’s elbow, Dr. LeBlanc said.
“The shoulder injury actually occurs from an over-rotation injury of the child’s shoulder along the growth plate. Both of these can be prevented by pitch monitoring, which helps to prevent too much stress on the young maturing body,” he said. “Pitch counts are performed to help prevent these injuries and are routinely implemented in the leagues.”
Overuse and recurrent injuries
Symptoms of overuse and potentially harmful injuries include intermittent swelling with recovery between activities. Dr. LeBlanc said that even though the swelling goes away, cumulative damage may occur.
“These subtle symptoms can be overlooked, especially with the eagerness of the young athlete. Sometimes, even resolved injuries can leave permanent damage and susceptibility to recurrence,” he said.
Shoulder dislocation, for example, is a serious injury due to the force involved to allow the shoulder to dislocate. Studies have shown that recurrence rate in 13- to- 18-year-olds is more than 80 percent, he said. “That essentially means that a teenager can expect to have future recurrence of dislocations unless they seek proper care from a sports medicine orthopaedist. Recurrent dislocation can cause severe damage to the bone and even future arthritis,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “Shoulder care and reconstruction is my specialty, and having been on numerous sports advisory committees, we have developed the latest techniques to allow us to return an athlete back to the sport they love safely and without long term consequences. Sports medicine is an exciting part of orthopaedics and it is of the utmost importance that new emerging techniques are continued.”
Pre-participation physicals for young athletes are a very important part of injury prevention. Dr. LeBlanc and the sports medicine team can recognize sports injury tendencies or weaknesses that children or teens may have through these exams.
“Our sports medicine team is also very instrumental in the care of concussion monitoring, which is so important in developing young brains of our youth,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “As we have seen in the NFL and also with multiple studies involving the immature brains of our youth, concussion monitoring is essential in their long-term mental health and well-being.”