Healthy Living: Focus on sport, not play could lead to youth injuries

Health

Children are expected to get bumps and bruises, but doctors are seeing more adult-type injuries and say it could be avoidable.

Last November, 11-year-old Kellen Fisher was playing football and went down on a play. He says he immediately knew he was hurt.

“We went to the ER. They checked him out and said he was okay, but we brought him home, and two weeks later, he still wasn’t walking,” said Heather Fisher, Kellen’s mom.

Kellen went to multiple doctors visits and eventually went to see Dr. Meagan Fernandez at Geisinger Holy Spirit.

“He developed a little pothole in the cartilage of his knee joint where he bears weight. Under the surface, the bone weakened and the blood supply was compromised and that created a little soft spot,” Fernandez said.

Kellen had an arthroscopic, minimally invasive surgery and then was in a wheelchair for four weeks. He went on to physical therapy and has fully returned to football this season.

Heather says most doctors didn’t want to do the surgery because of Kellen’s age but Fernandez didn’t hesitate.

“It is important to seek out pediatric specialization if your child gets hurt. Kids have open growth plates and you don’t want another issue to form with the growth plate or limb-to-limb discrepancy in the process of treating the injury they have,” she said.

Fernandez says Kellen had a genetic predisposition for this injury, but it is also a chronic overuse injury, something she is seeing more of.

“I think kids are getting more adult-type injuries, exponentially, because of single-sport specialization at a younger and younger age,” Fernandez said. “And kids are playing competitively year-round.”

Fernandez says it is important for young athletes to have rest time between sports seasons. She also encourages athletes to play multiple sports as they use different muscles and stress is placed on different joints.

“Kids don’t get enough free play, tag, whatever it is,” Fernandez said. “They’re forced into sports specialization and it is rigorous.”

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