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April is Youth Sports Safety Month and sports medicine specialist Thomas Merchant, M.D., with Sutter Independent Physicians, wants to spread the word on avoiding sports injuries.

Dr. Merchant treats sports injuries on young athletes year round. He says overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students.

A common story might sound like this: A 13-year-old boy participates in baseball games and practices 12 months of the year, plays on travel teams, the local park’s little league team and then throws balls in his own backyard most nights. Then due to the prolonged, repetitive stresses on his body, he suffers an arm injury that sidelines him for the season or longer, and keeps him off the field he loves and away from his social system. His injury doesn’t just affect his life now but may keep him from learning the life-long lessons that athletic participation teaches.

As a member of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) and the STOP Sports Injuries campaign, Dr. Merchant would like to share some of their simple tips to help keep kids on the field and out of the operating room:

  1. Get a pre-season physical
  2. Properly warm up and cool down before and after an activity
  3. Obtain instruction on proper training and technique
  4. If you are a pitcher, pitching guidelines promoted by Little League and other organizations
  5. Increase training gradually
  6. Don’t specialize in one sport
  7. Don’t play year-round – rest at least two months during the year
  8. Don’t play through pain – speak up if you are hurt

“Most overuse injuries are preventable,” said Dr. Merchant. “But left untreated, they may require surgery and have lifelong consequences.”