Entries in Sports (21)


Sports Physicals Aren’t a Magic Bullet for Saving Teen Athletes’ Lives

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It is always a tragedy when a young athlete dies while playing their sport due to an undiagnosed ailment. Unfortunately, a new study casts doubt on the idea that these deaths can all be prevented by mandatory sports physicals and testing.

Researchers in Minnesota consulted the U.S. National Registry of Sudden Death in Young Athletes which compiles the details 2,588 sports-related teenage deaths. They found 44 instances of teenagers who were found to have aortic stenosis or other aortic disorders, birth defects that carry risk of sudden death with rigorous exercise.

Of these, 32 had undergone sports physicals and been tested and were still cleared to play by a doctor. This suggests that despite good intentions, not all deaths can be prevented by easily accessible tests like an EKG. This is not to say that they are useless, but that they are certainly not foolproof.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Down a Kidney? Don’t Rule Out Sports

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- If you’re born with only one kidney, you can forget about being a football star or a hockey hall-of-famer -- or at least, that’s been the conventional medical wisdom espoused for the last few decades.

But a new study found that missing a kidney shouldn’t necessarily keep kids from playing contact sports.

Researchers at the University of Utah combed data on high school athletes’ injuries reported to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, including those playing collision-prone sports like football, field hockey and basketball.  Of the more than 23,000 injuries that players sustained from 1995 to 1997, just 18 were kidney injuries.  And even those injuries were fairly mild.  None of the players had catastrophic kidney injuries that required major medical care.

Injuries to knees, eyes and heads were much more common.  Among football players, there were 64 concussions for every one kidney injury.

Dr. Matthew Grinsell, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine, said based on the numbers, a lot of other everyday activities are riskier for the kidneys than playing contact sports.

“It looks like bicycle riding and downhill skiing are more dangerous than football,” he said.  “And all sports are way down the list of risks compared with motor vehicle accidents.”

About one in 750 people are born without one of their kidneys, according to the National Kidney Foundation.  Others are born with a kidney that simply doesn’t work or needs to be removed because of a tumor or an abnormality in the urinary tract.

In the past, doctors have erred on the side of caution when it comes to people who have only one of an organ that usually comes in pairs, like kidneys or testicles. But Dr. Alex Diamond, an assistant professor of pediatrics and a team physician for Vanderbilt University, said doctors usually try to strike a balance between protecting vital organs and reaping the benefits of athletics when advising patients and their families.

“You don’t want to under restrict someone who could be dangerously injured, but you don’t want to over restrict someone from all the social, physical and psychological benefits of playing sports,” he said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t say that all children who are down one kidney should be kept on the sidelines.  Instead, the group recommends giving these kids a “qualified yes” for sports participation after they are examined and cleared for play by a doctor.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Girls Can Hang Athletically with the Boys, Says Study

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Who said girls can’t hang with the boys?  At least according to one study, young ladies can perform just as well in certain sports as their male counterparts.

Researchers from Indiana University examined data from USA Swimming-registered boys and girls ages 6 to 19.  The total data included 1.9 million swims between 2005 and 2010.

The research showed no difference in swim performances among girls and boys younger than eight.  The study also found little difference in 11- and 12-year-olds.  It was only when children started hitting puberty, around 13 years old, that boys started beating girls.

It is a commonly held belief that girls and boys cannot compete equally due to differences in physique and skill, Joel Stager, professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Indiana University at Bloomington and lead author of the study, wrote in an email to ABC News.

“Our data would seem to argue that this is not always the case,” he said.  “Due to differences in developmental pace it seems to be true that at least in some sports there are periods of time during which girls and boys might be athletic equals.”

The increased muscle mass found in boys compared to girls does not happen until puberty, said Dr. David Rubin, assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“As a result, the finding that boys and girls aged 8 and under perform the same in a task driven by muscle mass and function makes sense,” said Rubin.  “The 11 to 12 year old group is interesting, in that the girls overall are likely taller, and more of them would be in puberty compared to the boys.

The relatively fewer boys that are in puberty in this group, however, are likely developing more muscle mass and increasing performance,” Rubin continued.  “Overall, the groups again even out.”

After everyone hits puberty full swing, results begin to mirror what is expected in adults.  Boys, due to their increased muscle mass, will often outperform in tasks specifically related to muscle mass.

“It’s important to remember, however, that sports often rely on more than just muscle,” said Rubin.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tom Brady's Mentor, Tom Martinez, Dies at 66

Rob Carr/Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Tom Martinez, the man credited for grooming New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his NFL career, died of a heart attack while undergoing dialysis Tuesday on his 66th birthday.

The retired football coach had been awaiting a kidney transplant for two years, but he had not succeeded in finding a donor. Three months ago, Martinez's doctors told him he had mere months left to live.

"I've been told I'm out of here, and I don't accept that," Martinez told ABC News in January. "I'm going to fight to the end."

Martinez's wife, Olivia, had dropped him off at the Satellitte Dialysis Center in Redwood City, Calif., for a routine appointment. Shortly after, she was called back to the center and was told by staff members that her husband had had a heart attack.

Martinez told ABC News in January that if there was ever a key to success on the field, it's this: Don't quit.

"I tell the kids I don't care who it is, I don't care where we go, I don't care where we play, we don't whine about officials' calls, we don't whine about weather conditions," said Martinez. "You play hard and you play right to the end."

Brady adopted that no-quit attitude to help his longtime mentor Martinez connect with a donor.

Brady spread the word through a banner he circulated online over the past month through, a nonprofit organization that helps interested living organ donors find those who need transplants.

"We don't like to promote one person or another," Dr. Jeremiah Lowney, medical director at, told ABC News in January. "If Tom Martinez is helping people get to this site, then that's great."

Martinez started coaching Brady when he was a 13-year-old at a quarterback football camp Martinez ran at the College of San Mateo in California, and the relationship lasted through Brady's NFL career.

"He's one of the fiercest competitors I have ever known," said Martinez. "He wants to do things 100 percent."

But Brady and Martinez's relationship was better than a great throw.

"He obviously is the summation of everything you attempt to teach," Martinez said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Cancer Survivor Mark Herzlich Grateful To Compete in Super Bowl

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York Giants’ rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich stepped off the plane in Indianapolis to play against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI and immediately took to Twitter to express his gratitude. He was thankful not just to be there, but to be alive.

“2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The #SuperBowl. #TakeThatSh*tCancer,” he tweeted.

In 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. The cancer was isolated to his left leg and the initial prognosis was not positive for the promising Boston College football star.

“They felt the NFL was a long shot,” Herzlich’s father, Sandy, told ESPN last summer. “They were first happy if they could save his life and they were happy if they could save his leg.”

Herzlich was told there were three possible outcomes.

“The worst-case scenario is obviously [that] it gets into other parts of your body and it completely kills you,” Herzlich told ESPN. “Second worst-case scenario is if they saw a small fracture in the bone and it was seeping out. Then they would have to amputate my leg right away within hours of finding it out. … Then better than that would be to remove that portion of the leg, putting in a cadaver bone and being in a cast for six months from the waist down, not ever being able to run again.”

It turns out there was a fourth and even better option.

Herzlich responded phenomenally to aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. He was given the choice to forgo surgery and continue treatment, saving his football career, but increasing the likelihood that the cancer could return, or have surgery, ending his football aspirations, but likely eliminating the cancer.

Herzlich decided to keep his dream alive.

After missing the 2009 college football season to undergo treatment, he took the field for Boston College in 2010. He started in all 13 games, but did not catch the eye of NFL scouts and was not drafted.

Herzlich continued training and eventually signed as a free agent with the New York Giants.

Now, one year into his NFL career Herzlich is set to compete at Lucas Oil Stadium in the biggest football game of the year, an opportunity that three years ago seemed nearly impossible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


High School Wrestler Does Not Let Cerebral Palsy Get in the Way of His Dreams

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(KEARNEY, Neb.) -- Andrew Dubowsky may be still looking for his first high school wrestling match victory, but that’s not to say the freshman hasn’t had success. Andrew was born with cerebral palsy, severely limiting the use of his legs. Despite suffering from a debilitating disease, Andrew’s strong desire to compete on an athletic team enabled him to overcome the odds and participate on the wrestling team at Kearney High School in Kearney, Nebraska.

“He’s an avid sports person. He always wanted to play football. Of course, that wasn’t possible. This sport [wrestling] offers a lot of things and I think that Andrew was just trying to do something with himself,” Andrew’s mother Melissa Dubowsky explains to ABC Kearney affiliate KHGI.

Andrew’s determination and strength has gained many admirers, and he has earned high praise from teammates, competitors, and opposing coaches alike.

"The Seward coach came up to me after my first competition and told me that I inspire his kids because of the way I wrestle,” Andrew told KHGI. He also explained his bigger dreams: “I want to try to be a state champion.”

Andrew has shown that with dedication, drive and willpower, anything is possible.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tebow's Playoff Blows Highlight Need for Sports Injury Care 

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow suffered numerous injuries during Saturday night’s playoff game against the New England Patriots, including torn cartilage, a bruised lung and fluid in the cavity surrounding one of his lungs, reports ESPN.

The damage was done, an NFL source told the sports network, during a hit Tebow took after throwing a pass.

The Broncos’ spokesman didn’t reveal the exact nature of Tebow’s injuries, citing team policy, but did say the quarterback was in a lot of pain at the end of the game.  Because of the pain, he had trouble sleeping and had an MRI earlier this week.

The source said Tebow’s injuries will not affect his offseason training regimen, and Tebow said in an interview he “can’t wait to get to work and get better.”

Without knowing precisely what happened to Tebow, it’s difficult to say what consequences staying in the game after being hit could have had.

But in general, doctors say a blow to the chest or abdomen can sometimes worsen over time, even if the damage seems minimal at first.

“These kind of injuries can evolve over time, and it may not cause trouble until later.  There may be pain that gets worse or other symptoms,” said Dr. John DiFiori, chief of the division of sports medicine in the department of family medicine at UCLA.  DiFiori was not referring to Tebow’s injuries and spoke of athletic injuries in general.

Athletes at all levels often play through injuries, either because they don’t seem that bad or because it’s in their nature.

“They will push through and feel that as long as they can make a difference to their team, they’ll be out there.  In the heat of competition, they may not perceive their injuries as being significant,” said DiFiori.

Concussions are among the most commonly underreported sports-related injuries.

“People may not even know they have a concussion. They can happen after a blow to the body that causes a rotational force to the head,” he said.

But awareness of the dangers of concussions and other sports injuries is on the rise, he added.  More and more athletes recognize the symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and slurred speech, and are seeking medical attention.

Despite broader knowledge of the consequences of sports injuries, athletes still need to be reminded about not pushing their bodies beyond their physical capabilities after getting hurt.

“Our job as sports medicine specialists is to communicate when it’s safe to return to playing.  Athletes are often so committed to getting back that they take shortcuts, and they need to be carefully counseled,” DiFiori said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sports Concussions Lessen Blood Reaching Kids' Brains

Comstock/Thinkstock(CINCINNATI) -- Concussions can reduce blood flow to young athletes' brains for a month or more, although their brains also appear more resilient in many ways than those of similarly injured adults, researchers report.

A single sports-related concussion in a young person generally produces minor trauma, which the researchers described as more of a disruption to brain function than the structural and metabolic damage similar concussions inflict on adult brains.

The findings come from a study assessing the effects of concussions on nine boys and three girls, ages 11 to 15, who'd been injured during football, soccer or wrestling.  The study group comprised three girls injured while playing soccer, one boy injured while wrestling and seven boys injured on the football field.  Two football players were knocked unconscious during the incidents; three of the football players had suffered previous concussions more than a year earlier.

When the researchers, led by Dr. Todd Maugans, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, compared injured athletes' brains to brains of healthy youngsters of the same age and sex, MRIs found less blood flowing through the injured athletes' brains in the immediate aftermath of their head injuries.  The brain-injured athletes also had slower reaction times.

However, by the two-week mark, blood flow for 27 percent of the injured athletes returned nearly to the levels of healthy subjects and most of their symptoms had resolved.  Follow-up at a month or more found 64 percent of the injured athletes had normal blood flow again, and everyone's reaction times were normal, according to results published online Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.

With 36 percent of the group experiencing persistent blood flow reductions a month or more after their injuries, "our results reinforce the concept that a protracted state of physiologic abnormality exists for some young athletes," the researchers wrote.

The authors theorized that diminished blood flow produces some of the symptoms associated with concussions, most of which resolve with time.  They were unable to say what long-term effects might result from lessened blood flow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Better Equipment Won’t Prevent Sports Concussions, Experts and Athletes Say

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sports are an important part of youth culture, but the risks of concussions need to be addressed, former athletes, neurologists and a representative from the Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) told members of the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

“I don’t see this problem going away with equipment,” said Dr. Ann McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University. “I think equipment is going to improve this issue, but it’s not going to solve this issue. We really have to address the way sports are played.”

Both former college quarterback Steven Threet and Alexis Ball, a former soccer star, testified that they felt pressured to return to games after sustaining concussions more quickly than they should have.

“I don’t think brain injury is viewed as a serious issue throughout athletics,” Threet told the panel. “It wasn’t, for me, until I had a concussion that changed what I was able to do in school and on a daily basis.”

Ball, who suffered 10 concussions in eight years, said she knew the answers to test questions doctors asked and lied in order to play.  

“People have only one brain for life,” she said. “I will never regain the visual memory I once had....Concussions and brain injuries are not minor injuries. In order to prevent more stories like mine, concussion awareness needs to be more prevalent among coaches and athletes in our society.”

Recent cases of athletes developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), leading, in some cases, to suicide, brought the dangers of concussions to the national spotlight.

McKee highlighted the suicides of Dave Duerson, a former defensive end for football’s Chicago Bears, and Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania defensive end. Both experienced repeated concussions during their careers and, when compared, their brains showed similar pathologies.

An understanding of equipment and its purpose is vital to preventing concussions, said Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher of the University of Michigan’s department of neurology.  

“Helmets are extremely effective pieces of equipment,” Kutcher told the committee. “What helmets do not do well is significantly slow down the contents of the skull when the head is struck and moved suddenly. Since concussions occur not as the result of the forces experienced by the skull, but experienced by the brain, it is extremely unlikely that a helmet can be designed that will prevent concussions to the same significant degree that they have been shown to prevent skull fractures.”

The hearing was intended to focus on improper marketing of sports equipment, which Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., highlighted repeatedly. His examples included a mouth guard, a headband and a supplement whose makers all claimed would help prevent concussions.

Kutcher said anything that says it prevents concussions does not “understand the complexity of the issue.”

The claims can be dangerous because of the confidence that develops when wearing gear that is marketed as “protective.”

“A player who has sustained a concussion now sees this, or the parent sees this, as the answer,” said Mike Oliver, executive director of NOCSAE. “If I put this on, everything’s fine. It’s not only a false sense of security from being protected from the first concussion, but being protected because I just had one and this will give me an extra layer.”

Educating athletes, coaches and parents is the most immediate way to prevent the harm concussions cause, the panel said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pressure from Parents Discourages Child Athletes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- Health experts say that parents' emphasis on winning in sports like soccer, baseball, and football is sucking the fun out of the games for many children, according to HealthDay.

Even though some 30 million kids played on little league teams in 2010, many children quit sports as they get older, and get into an unhealthy routine of inactivity and lethargy.

Some experts say parents who force children to play sports at a young age pressure them too much. Others say that sports engender an unhealthy culture of winning.

HealthDay lists some advice from experts on how to keep children healthy and motivated when playing sports. First on the list: don't stress winning! It is more important for children to appreciate the sport for its own sake, rather than as a means to an end. Other tidbits of advice include: avoid comparing your child with other players, try playing lots of different sports, and give children time off.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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