Kids sports injuries

July 16, 2009 8:44:13 PM PDT
Kids today are playing and practicing sports more intensely and at younger ages than in years past. They're also specializing, and playing one sport year-round. Now doctors are seeing the effects. Olivia Khoury, 17, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey is a soccer phanatic. "I like that it's always moving," she said. She's been playing since she was six and over the years has collected dozens of trophies.

For middle school, I was on a travel team and a team for my school and then the same for high school," she said. By the time she was 14, she was playing close to 20 hours a week. Until her right knee started to hurt.

"It just kind of got swollen, it would go away, I could still kind of play but it would hurt afterwards," she said.

But playing through the pain is what Dr. Shannon Safier of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children said may have contributed to her injury getting worse. Once Olivia did get to the doctor, an x-ray showed a condition called osteochondritis dessicans or OCD.

It doesn't happen due to one specific injury but starts as a bruise to the bone. Over time if the activity continues, it gets worse and forms a lesion. That lesion can then break away from the bone and end up floating in the joint.

Dr. Safier said," In Olivia's case it has actually broken off in three different pieces." He said in the past if kids got OCD, it would heal on it's own before the lesion broke off. But kids today are playing sports at a younger age, they're playing at a more competitive level and many choose to play one sport year round and as a result, Dr. Sa-fear said he's seeing more adult-like complications like Olivia's in kids.

"The number I am seeing today compared to five years ago is probably tripled so I think it's a problem that's getting worse," he said.

Still Dr. Safier said problems can be prevented by taking pain seriously. If a child complains, even if it's on and off, get it checked out.

Olivia's mother, Dana Khoury, said they didn't think she was hurt too badly because the pain would go away. Plus, Olivia wanted to keep playing. Still her mother said, " I definitely think I should have been more vigilant about her pain and should have had her at a doctor much earlier than I did."

Dr. Safier reminds, just like pro-athletes who get hurt, kids who are hurt also need rest.

Olivia had surgery to put the pieces of her bone back together. She had to be home-schooled for several months and missed a year of soccer. But is now back and although she's ruled out playing competitive soccer at college, for her upcoming senior year at high school, she's not holding back.

"This is my year where I really think I am going to go full throttle, just go all out, I just want my team...to get to states," Olivia said.

Osteochondritis dissecans most commonly occurs in the knee but it can affect other joints such as the elbow, hip and ankle. Dr. Safier said he's not just seeing more OCD-complications, he is also seeing more ACL and meniscus tears in kids.

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