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A physician’s perspective on youth sports

A physician’s perspective on youth sports

As the parent of a young athlete, it can be difficult to balance the desire to support your child’s desire for success and the need to protect their physical wellness. Dr. Russell Ellis, who works with DOC Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Decatur and specializes in sports medicine, shared his insights, concerns, and guidance for athletes who participate in youth sports activities.

Dr. Ellis, a Morgan County native, received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine at Birmingham, then completed his residency at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine at Chattanooga in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, serving as Chief Resident his final year. After residency, he spent an additional year as a Sports Medicine Fellow at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, training under Dr. Tracy Ray and renowned sports medicine physician, Dr. James Andrews. He currently serves as team physician for several area high schools and Calhoun Community College.

What are some trends you are seeing with youth sports injuries?

Dr. Ellis: We seem to be getting more overuse injuries. There’s a definite trend toward sport specialization — asking young athletes to focus on only one or two sports — and playing that sport year-round. That means we’re seeing more young athletes train like adults, with very little rest.

Do you think youth sports/programs are becoming safer for young athletes? If yes, how?

Dr. Ellis: Generally speaking, I believe they’re safer from the perspective of catastrophic injuries. For example, I believe that players, coaches, and parents all have a higher awareness of the risks and potential signs of concussion. We’re seeing a more cautious approach than we did in the past.

What role do parents play in helping to prevent sports injuries with their child athlete?

Dr. Ellis: The parental role is absolutely the most important factor in preventing injuries, particularly those from overuse. Parents can’t be at every practice or maybe not even at every game, but they can make sure that they incorporate periods of rest from a particular sport. There should be a break of more than just a couple of weeks here and there during the year.

How can young athletes advocate for themselves when it comes to preventing injury to themselves or their teammates?

Dr. Ellis: The best thing they can do is be honest about what is going on both physically and mentally. Whether it’s musculoskeletal pain or the desire to do something different, the young athlete needs to be honest and open with parents and coaches. Parents need to be receptive to this input and make this easy for their kids. They can do this by not putting excessive pressure on children to perform at elite levels and making sure their children know to alert parents and coaches as soon as potential issues appear.

What is a key takeaway you would like coaches of young athletes to know?

Dr. Ellis: I would want them to keep in mind that athletes at the high school level or younger are children. They shouldn’t be treated as little adults, emotionally, physically, or psychologically. Most of all, coaches shouldn’t use them as a means for their own success. Instead, as best they can, coaches should put the success of each individual athlete ahead of their own success.

Dr. Ellis and the entire team of specialists at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine are dedicated to the unique challenges, injuries, and recovery requirements of athletes, young and old. Since 1972, the practice has been committed to providing exceptional orthopedic care through innovative techniques, quality services, patient communication, and education with specialties ranging from general orthopedics and physical therapy to sports medicine and joint replacement.

Young athletes who actively consult and work with a practice like DOC are laying the foundation for proper technique and training that will prolong and improve their overall athletic performance. Call or visit the practice online to schedule a consultation regarding your own young athlete.

Since 1972, DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine have been committed to providing exceptional orthopedic care through innovative techniques, quality services, patient communication, and education. With specialties ranging from general orthopedics and physical therapy to sports medicine, joint replacement, and more, the doctors at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can provide local expert care for any orthopedic disorder or injury and help put your life back in motion.

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