Spring Training is Injury Prevention Time for Young Pitchers

Spring Training is Injury Prevention Time for Young Pitchers

With the Cardinals back at spring training in Florida, youth baseball players in the St. Louis area are also returning to the cages to begin their preseason training regimens. For many young pitchers, that means restarting a throwing program after at least a few months off. Having grown and developed in the off season, they’re finding their balance and release points again, and maybe trying out a new pitch or two.

Though it’s fun to focus on those mechanics, players and parents should also remember that preseason is an exceptionally important time to do the work necessary to keep young arms healthy through the long season to come. Arm care isn’t just about counting pitches. The strength and flexibility training young pitchers do in the preseason can mean the difference between ending the season as an all-star and having season-ending surgery.

Benefits of a Preseason Throwing Injury Prevention Program

In 2016, research presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (“AOSSM”) Specialty Day reported that a preseason injury prevention program was shown to significantly diminish the risk of a throwing injury in youth pitchers. In the study, young pitchers participated in a program consisting of resistance training with dumbbells and elastic bands, focusing on flexibility exercises four times per week for at least fifteen minutes per session. The results found that they were four times less likely to suffer a throwing injury than a comparable group of pitchers who only followed a normal preseason throwing regimen. Quoted in the AOSSM press release reporting the findings, one of the study’s corresponding authors emphasized that encouraging “parents, coaches, and youth baseball organizations across the country to adopt similar programs [may give] athletes… a better chance for reducing time off the field because of injury.”

Resources for Developing Your Preseason Throwing Injury Prevention Program

You can find guidance from the National Strength and Conditioning Association on preseason training for youth baseball players here.

Parents, players, and coaches with questions about developing a preseason throwing injury prevention program should consult a certified athletic trainer, or contact our team at Missouri Orthopedics and Advanced Sports Medicine today.

When is a Meniscus Tear Repairable?

When is a Meniscus Tear Repairable?

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, one of the most common knee injuries is a tear in the meniscus. These rubbery pieces of cartilage act as shock absorbers in the knee to cushion and stabilize the knee joint. There are two menisci in each of your knees: one on the inside of the knee and one on the outer side.

Treatment of a meniscus tear depends on a number of factors, including the type of tear, its size and where the tear is located on the meniscus. Most meniscus tears result either from trauma or are degenerative. Traumatic tears come about from a twisting of the knee, often while engaged in sports and physical activity. Degenerative tears can occur as the body ages and tissue gradually breaks down over time.

The outer one-third of the meniscus has a rich supply of blood flow, which is important for any part of the body to heal. The inner two-thirds, however, have little to no blood flow. Nutrients from blood are necessary for the body to heal naturally, so when there are tears in the inner part of the meniscus, surgical trimming and removal of the torn piece is generally the best option.

Tears in the meniscus that are located near the outer edge of the knee are typically the result of trauma and are longitudinal – basically following parallel to the long side of the meniscus. This makes these injuries the best candidates for surgical repair.

Arthroscopic surgery for such tears can be very successful at repairing the damage. This is a minimally invasive treatment, as only a few small incisions in the knee are needed. A miniature camera is inserted in one incision, and surgical instruments are inserted in the others, allowing the surgery to all take place within the knee. The tear is closed by stitching the torn pieces together.

Recovery time from a meniscus repair is longer than for surgery where part of the meniscus is removed because the tissue must heal together, requiring 3-4 months away from sports. However, you can expect to fully return to your previous level of activity once healing is complete.

If you have sustained a knee injury or are experiencing knee pain, contact us at Missouri Orthopedics and Advanced Sports Medicine. Dr. Irvine has extensive experience in treating knee pain and injuries, and is trained in the most advanced techniques in arthroscopic surgery.

General Orthopedic Care – Caring for Broken Bones

General Orthopedic Care – Caring for Broken Bones

There are many ways a bone can be injured or broken. Car accidents, contact sports, falls, and workplace accidents are some of the most common ways bones sustain injuries. Regardless of the cause, broken bones should be treated as soon as possible to avoid complications. The best way to treat an injury to a bone is to ensure proper alignment and stabilization.

Leaving a bone break or injury untreated can result in complications including bone deformity and permanent nerve damage. An untreated break may also cause damage to surrounding muscle and ligaments. These complications occur because bone is living tissue that attempts to heal itself in stages:

  • The trauma of the break damages blood vessels within the bone resulting in bleeding inside the tissue. Within hours this blood forms a clot. The blood clot associated with a broken bone contains specialized cells known as fibroblasts.
  • In a few days, these cells begin to manufacture granulation tissue. This tissue begins to form a web of cartilage and fibrocartilage and is known as the soft callus stage. This stage may last from about four days to as long as three weeks in most cases.
  • At this point cells known as osteoblasts begin to make new bone tissue. Usually, this process begins at about two to three weeks and ends at about six to eight weeks. This is known as the hard callus stage and depending on the location and severity of the break, may continue for months.
  • The final process is remodeling. Specialized cells called osteoclasts begin to break down excess bone in the fractured area, reducing the size of the callus and replacing it with hard, compact bone tissue. As this happens, the bone returns to its original size and shape. During this time, the bone functions as well as before the break; however, the process of complete remodeling can take years to complete.

Because bone begins to heal itself almost immediately after an injury, it is vital to see a doctor as soon as possible in order to assure correct healing and avoid complications.

When you visit our office for a broken bone, an X-ray of the affected area would be done to determine the type and severity of the break. For the majority of simple fractures, the bone is able to be gently manipulated back into place. If a more complex or severe break is found, the bone may require stabilization with pins, screws, or plates. Once the bone is back to the correct alignment, immobilization with a cast, splint, or in some cases, traction is essential in order to minimize pain and allow the bone to continue to repair itself in the correct position.

Once the bone is stabilized, recovery and rehabilitation can begin. Dr. Irvine and his team will devise a plan to suit your specific needs. A proper rehabilitation program promotes blood flow to assist in healing and maintaining muscle tone, while also reducing stiffness and helping prevent blood clots.

No matter what the cause, Missouri Orthopedics & Advanced Sports Medicine is here to help. Our clinic can diagnose and treat all types of breaks to get you back to your day-to-day activities. Contact us if you suspect you may have a broken bone or other orthopedic injury. We provide prompt, professional care to minimize further damage and get you back to a healthy, active lifestyle.

Common Sports Injuries for Teen Athletes

Common Sports Injuries for Teen Athletes

High school sports have become a popular extracurricular for many teens. They are a great way to stay in shape and help teach teamwork, leadership, and even time management when balanced with other responsibilities. Unfortunately, for many young athletes, injuries are common, ranging from acute to catastrophic. Each type of injury requires specific treatment that may cause them to miss a game, or even the entire season, but healing time is essential for a proper return to the field or court.

If you watch professional sports, you have undoubtedly witnessed any number of injuries throughout the season. Teens are injured at about the same rate as professionals, but the injuries can be much worse if not treated correctly as these young athletes are still growing. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “Growth is generally uneven: Bones grow first, which pulls at tight muscles and tendons.” This tension is a major contributing factor of injuries to muscles, tendons and growth plates that are common among young athletes.

There are a few different levels of injury that can occur in athletes. Understanding each can help the healing process and provide a realistic expectation for healing.

  • Acute Injuries: These are classified as bruises, sprains, strains and fractures. Typically, they are caused by a sudden trauma, such as a collision between players or with an obstacle. Another common acute injury is a twisted ankle, resulting in fracture or sprain.
  • Overuse Injuries: As the skill level of a sport increases, so do the practices, training and games. This can result in gradual damage over time as there is not enough recovery time in between to heal. Common overuse injuries have been seen in elbows of baseball pitchers, shoulders of swimmers, and wrist and elbow injuries in cheerleaders and gymnasts. Stress fractures also become very common, as old bone breaks down quickly with overuse and new bone does not have enough time to grow in, causing weakness.
  • Catastrophic Injuries: These types of injuries are more common with contact sports, such as hockey and football, but have been reported in many others. Catastrophic injuries include damage to the brain, spinal cord, or growth plates. Concussions, or mild traumatic brain injuries, have become a hot topic of conversation with their rise in professional football. If a concussion is suspected, the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Neurology recommend the athlete be evaluated and cleared by a doctor before they can return to normal play to avoid any permanent damage. Growth plate injuries occur to the developing cartilage at the end of long bones. These are the final portion of the bone to harden, which is why they are more susceptible to fracture. An injury to the growth plate can cause the bone growth to stop or cause a deformity of the bone.

Any injury that occurs due to sports, particularly if any symptoms or discomfort persist, should be seen by a doctor. Athletes who are pushed to work through pain, or are downplaying the severity in order to continue competing may be causing further damage that could become permanent or even result in a disability. This is where the importance of observation by both coaches and parents comes into play as pain or discomfort can be seen if their technique seems off or they have a decreased interest in practice.

Treatment will all depend on the type of injury and its severity. It could range from simple rest to therapy and even surgery. The injury should be healed completely before the athlete can return to physical activities. While it may not be easy to have to take the time off to heal, it will result in a much better outcome than what could happen if left untreated. Athletes can work to prevent these types of injuries by making sure they are properly conditioned, trained, and using proper equipment. Limiting the number of teams the athlete participates on during a given season can help prevent overuse injuries, and making sure to take breaks between seasons, as well as playing other sports throughout the year, can not only help to prevent injury, but help develop an array of athletic skills.

If you have a teen athlete who has a sports-related injury, contact us today. We will help them with the necessary treatment plan to recover and safely get back on the field.

The Remarkable Hand

What makes humans so “human”? While there are certainly many factors – spiritual, emotional, physical – that make us human, the human hand is a unique appendage that opened up amazing possibilities in our becoming human.

From our opposable thumbs to the amazing sensory receptiveness of our fingertips, the human hand is ideally sculpted for exploration and manipulation of this incredibly complex world. A study at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden in 2013 determined that the human finger can find an irregularity as small as 13 nanometers, which is less than 1/1000th the thickness of a human hair. With sensory tools like that at our disposal, it’s not surprising we humans have done as well as we have!

Let’s spend a minute and look at the basic set-up of the hand.

The eight bones of the wrist are called the carpal bones. The carpal tunnel is the narrow passage through which passes all of the blood and nerve supply for the hand. You’ve probably heard of carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when, for a variety of reasons, that passageway no longer allows for friction-free passage of the tendons, nerves and blood supply to the hand, causing pain and dysfunction.

The five long bones that stretch from your wrist to the base of your fingers are called metacarpals, and the individual bones of your fingers are called the phalanges (phalanx is singular). The muscles and tendons that move your hands and fingers are incredibly sensitive, allowing us to pick up tiny objects, while they are strong enough to lift frying pans and carry babies!

It’s amazing all that we can do with our hands! However, when we begin having pain or discomfort in our hands, it can be difficult to function in the day-to-day. If you are experiencing pain in your hands or wrists, please contact us to set up an evaluation.