HEALTH WATCH : Dr. Nirav K. Pandya
As an orthopedic surgeon, former collegiate athlete and parent, sports are intricately woven into my life.
For the past several months, the media has focused extensively on the topic of misguided athletic participation, highlighting program’s like Major League Baseball’s “Pitch Smart” guidelines and the STOP Sports Injuries campaign.
Yet, for every story that highlights the potential dangers of athletic participation when not done appropriately, there are ten more stories of professional athletes whose singular focus on athletics has supposedly led to professional stardom. The unfortunate reality is that for the vast majority of young athletes, they have a very slim chance of obtaining an athletic scholarship (around 2 percent) and even slimmer chance of turning professional (less than 0.6 percent). Even if you are one of the lucky few who is able to obtain a scholarship, the average scholarship award is approximately $11,000 “” barely covering the cost of tuition.
Children as young as 6 years of age walk into my clinic on a daily basis having exerted their bodies for countless hours; many times specializing in one-sport year round. Many are chasing the dream of athletic scholarships or professional contracts. Anterior cruciate ligament injuries, cartilage loss, elbow ligament tears and stress fractures “” once the domain of the adult “” are common complaints of these athletes, many of whom have not even entered high school. Are we hurting more kids than helping them?
As a former collegiate athlete and coach, I understand the importance of athletics; not for the chance of obtaining a scholarship, but rather for fostering work ethic, teamwork and sportsmanship. Yet, over the past several years, I have seen sports in many of our youth become a means to ends rather than a means in and of itself. The current landscape of sports is different, and many of the changes we have made have not helped to improve athletic performance but rather have only helped to increase injury rates.
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