John E. Hoover: Andrews' new book a handbook to health for budding athletes
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
1/08/13 at 6:53 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: A handbook to health for budding athletes
Parents who have kids in sports - any sport, on any level - need to pick up a copy of Dr. James Andrews' new book.
"Any Given Monday: Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them, For Athletes, Parents and Coaches - Based on My Life in Sports Medicine" is the new bible for anyone involved in youth sports.
The book ($25, Simon & Schuster), hits shelves Tuesday. All proceeds go to the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine's STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injury Campaign.
"Most of the things are common sense, grass-roots education that we can get out there and certainly help prevent some of these injuries," Andrews told the Tulsa World in a telephone interview on Saturday. "That's what's in the book. Now, see if you can get 'em to open it up and read it."
Andrews, a one-time Louisiana high school football player and college pole vaulter at LSU, has gained international renown over the years as the world's preeminent sports orthopedist, operating on the likes of Bo Jackson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Roger Clemens, Brett Favre, and Peyton and Eli Manning.
He's also the team doctor for Alabama and Auburn football and the Washington Redskins.
In 2009, Andrews fixed Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford's shoulder, and Bradford became the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Last year he fixed former OU running back Adrian Peterson's knee, and Peterson this year nearly broke the NFL's single-season rushing record. And in 2011 and 2012, he operated on ex-Sooner and Detroit Lions receiver Ryan Broyles' two torn ACLs.
"Any Given Monday" lays out the landscape of what Andrews calls the "epidemic proportions" of sports injuries among young athletes and the two main factors to blame: overuse and specialization, and professionalism in training. It also provides 26 sport-specific chapters, from baseball to wrestling (and including cheerleading and dance), on what to expect in different sports and how to deal with those injuries.
The message in Andrews' book (written with former Sports Illustrated editor Don Yaeger) is not one of cure, but prevention.
"The sports medicine community and the medical community have been remiss for years," Andrews said. "We haven't been involved in prevention as much as we should, and that's a mistake."
Andrews pioneered current techniques on how to repair torn ACLs and became a leading authority on retasking other ligaments for "Tommy John" surgery. But now he wants parents and coaches to be made aware - through community organizing and with the help of federal funding, if necessary - that prevention is a better way.
"What we've done in the past is worry about putting things back together, developing new techniques - 'How do we fix an ACL?' " Andrews said. "We haven't spent near enough time asking, 'How do we prevent an ACL?' "
Some 45 million kids will play sports in 2013. Of those, 3 1/2 million will be treated for sports injuries. Half of those, Andrews says, will come from overuse. And of those, 60 percent will have been preventable.
Overuse should be addressed first.
For example, 12- to 18-year-old girls in Tulsa who play competitive-level club soccer are training or practicing 10 months out of the year (usually a month off in the summer and a month off for the winter holidays). Those girls almost always play on their high school teams, too. ACL injuries are 5 to 7 times more common in female soccer players than their male counterparts, Andrews says.
"You don't need to let them play 10 months out of the year," Andrews said. "They need probably 3-4 months off during the year, preferably. ... But if you take 'em out, they won't let 'em back in. That's the problem. You and I aren't gonna solve that today."
Andrews helped introduce new Little League Baseball legislation in 2010 regarding pitch counts. Depending on the player's age, a pitcher now must get a set number of days off related to how many pitches were thrown in a game. Only a few years ago, a 10-year-old staff ace might pitch every game.
"We've prevented some injuries in youth baseball already," Andrews said.
Andrews also is concerned about "professionalism" in youth sports - that is, parents making their young children train on an advanced level, or coaches demanding it.
"Professionalism means they're taking these kids that are 12 or 13 - or even age 6 in some sports - and they're training them like they're professional athletes," Andrews said. "Those kids' bodies aren't ready for that kind of professional training."
Andrews also has a chapter laying out guidelines for an emergency action plan (EAP) at youth and high school sporting events. Preparedness is key, he said.
In Georgia last year, a young athlete sustained a sudden loss of heart function and a defibrillator was quickly brought to the scene, but it wasn't charged.
"That's terrible," he said. "Could have saved a kid's life.
"Someone needs to be in charge and make sure that the school system has some type of emergency action plan that is written and posted and is carried out. Because it can save lives, and it can help with catastrophic injuries.
"The biggest problem now is that the tail is wagging the dog. In other words, the sports systems are dictating what the kids do instead of the parents. When the two big things related to increase in injury have gotten to epidemic proportions in youth sports, the parents don't have control of what their kids are doing."
Andrews also advocates grandparents getting involved. Andrews' son played high school football without ever sustaining a major injury, and his grandson just completed his high school career also injury free.
But Andrews' four daughters all endured injuries in cheerleading, including one who blew out both ACLs. Now he has granddaughters who cheer, too, and he said he's "more careful with my grandkids now than I probably was with my own kids.
"But, that's part of sport. You try to minimize it if you can," he said. "Most of the solutions to prevention are pretty much common sense if people understand what's going on a little bit."
Some parents and coaches will heed his words, but many won't. Not yet.
Andrews doesn't expect an immediate culture change, but just as sports medicine has become a major industry unto itself in the last 25 years, he knows it may take another generation or so to spread his ideas about prevention.
"We're not gonna change it all at once," he said. "I've been working on this for 10 years, and we probably haven't made a dent in it. But the book is just another way of getting the message out."
Dr. James Andrews has gained international renown over the years as the world's preeminent sports orthopedist. Mari Darr-Welch / AP file