Timothy Kremchek, MD – Opinion Contributor – Cincinnati Enquirer – April 23, 2019
As the seasons change, so do the sports we play. And as athletes gather their gear for the next season’s practices, I want to remind young players (and their parents) to take care of their most important piece of equipment – their bodies.
As an orthopaedic surgeon at Beacon Orthopaedics who operates on professionals and amateurs alike, I have first-hand experience and perspective into that unique piece of often-overworked equipment. Whether you already have a multi-million-dollar contract, you’re a high school athlete hoping for that coveted scholarship or you are on a traveling “select” team – staying healthy is critical. Don’t forget that your body is your most precious asset. And if you are a young athlete’s parent, I hope you hear this challenge: protecting that asset should be job one – for you.
Over the years, I have operated on more than 20,000 patients. Thirty-five percent of whom were under the age of 20. That’s about 7,000 youth patients. Let that sink in.
Of course, some sports injuries are just bad luck. Those are a shame. I am talking about injuries due to overtaxing an otherwise strong healthy body – making it more susceptible to getting hurt. Sometimes these injuries aren’t solely fixed after the time spent on an operating table. They require intense physical therapy, supervised workouts and yes sometimes, even further surgeries. Pushing the body beyond what was healthy can put you on the bench. Too many pitches. Too many games. Too many seasons. Too many tournaments. The human body is not made for that. Strategic rest is necessary.
Now, we all know the mantra of “playing with pain,” and surely there are times when pushing through struggle is laudable. That is not what I mean. I am talking about consistent and strained exertion, when perhaps taking a break or enforcing pitch counts might be the better course in preventing devastating shoulder, elbow or knee injuries.
Athletes, coaches and parents should always be considering how – if rested – muscles, ligaments and tendons will better compete another day. Most of the young athletes’ surgeries I have performed – rotator cuffs, Tommy John surgeries, ACL tears – were to repair injuries originally caused by fatigue. And even if not the only cause, fatigue certainly made the injuries more likely or more severe. That means that those were injuries that could have been avoided with planned rest and rejuvenation time.
As we move outside to soccer fields and baseball diamonds this spring, let’s make it a priority to promote healthy training and appropriate rest for these amazing bodies. I offer these suggestions:
- Get good recovery after exertion. Allow the body to recuperate.
- Get solid uninterrupted sleep every night. Start each day, well-rested.
- Stay hydrated and eat healthily. Fuel the body to operate more effectively and efficiently.
- Exercise different muscle groups. Perhaps even play a different sport.
Finally, as a sports medicine doctor, I recommend you might actually take a season off. Along with an appropriate strength training and conditioning program, this could be a great boost for your game and a reboot for your body. Taking good care of your equipment is always a smart investment. And that may just mean taking a seat. Whether it’s the number of pitches thrown or laps completed, less may actually be more.
Dr. Timothy Kremchek is a board-certified orthopaedic and sports medicine surgeon at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. He is the team medical director of the Cincinnati Reds, physician consult for the NFL and medical director for numerous local college and high school athletic programs.