Athletes: be honest about symptoms and tell the
coach if you suspect something's wrong. "If the coach says 'suck it
up and go back in there,' their priorities are probably out of
Parents: ask questions and be informed. And
understand that your kids might not see long-term. "It's hard to
get an eighth grader, a sophomore, even a rookie in the NFL to say
'this might have an impact when I'm 50.'"
Coaches and administration: be informed, hold
people accountable and keep it all in perspective. "Something is
lost in youth sports if winning becomes more important than
Upcoming "Youth Sports Injury Prevention is the Name of the
We all know the positive reasons for young people to be involved
in sports: getting exercise, learning teamwork, devoting yourself
to a greater cause. But most parents try not to think about the
physical risks that come from playing sports, let alone what to do
when their child is the one who gets injured.
That's why a group of physicians from Midwest Orthopaedics at
Rush (MOR) have teamed up with former Chicago Bear Hunter
Hillenmeyer to present seminars to parents, coaches and young
athletes examining how to prevent sports injuries.
The seminars, including Tuesday's event at Oak Park-River Forest
High School, focus on the top five sports injuries suffered by
Illinois athletes, based on a new survey of high school athletic
trainers conducted by the Illinois Athletic Trainers Association
The survey found that knee injuries are most common (35
percent), followed by shoulder injuries (18 percent), back pain (16
percent), wrist injuries (16 percent) and concussions (15
MOR physicians focused on prevention techniques, such as warming
up and cooling down properly, weight training with supervision,
increasing flexibility and taking time to allow their bodies to
recover, especially from repetitive movement.
"There's a thinly veiled blackmail our kids are undergoing,"
says Dr. Gregory Nicholson. "Girls especially seem to be forced
into one sport very early … so they have a repetitive aspect to
Parents shouldn't rely solely on coaches to make sure their kids
play safe. Nicholson says that while almost all parents consider
that the coach's job, nearly half of coaches admit that they've
felt pressure to play an injured child.
Playing hurt is no joke, especially when it comes to
concussions. Dr. Joshua Blomgren says that there are 1 million
sports-related head injuries each year on the high school level
alone, and 85% of concussions go unreported. And when an athlete
has had one concussion, the chance of suffering another one - and
having long-term adverse effects - increases exponentially.
Hillenmeyer, whose professional career ended as a result of
multiple concussions (four to five in the NFL alone), says that
brain injury awareness has "kind of become my cause in life after
the NFL. I've made a conscious decision to educate myself on the
He says that although awareness noticeably has increased even
since he first started playing for the Bears in 2003, with stricter
return-to-play guidelines and better equipment, there's still a lot
of work to be done.
"There's a culture around the world of football that needs
changing," Hillenmeyer says. "It's hardwired from a very young age.
You have to hammer the point home… Concussions are not something to
be messed around with."
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.
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