Entries in Sports (21)


Foster, Colts Teammates Could Struggle Mentally After Gruesome Injury

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images(TAMPA, Fla.) -- The Indianapolis Colts have a losing season on their hands, but that's not all that could be on their minds. The team's players have suffered multiple injuries in the season so far, including defensive tackle Eric Foster's gruesome ankle injury in Monday night's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sports psychologists say those injuries could take a toll on players' psyches, even on the ones who weren't injured.

Foster dislocated his ankle in the second quarter of the game when his leg got pinned and tangled under defensive end Tyler Brayton. He was taken out of the game.

Foster became emotional as doctors immobilized his leg on the field and loaded him onto a stretcher, and as he rode off the field, he pumped his fist in the air, rallying players from both teams and a stadium full of fans.

The severity of Foster's injury was obvious, both in video replays and based on the emotional reactions of his teammates. But sports psychologists say the mental challenges Foster may face because of his injury could make his road to recovery even rockier.

Dr. William Parham, a sports psychologist in Irvine, Calif., said a player's identity as an athlete makes injury hard to handle emotionally.

"Participation in athletics, especially at the professional level, is not just participation in a game. It's a part of who that player is. It becomes who they are and how they identify themselves," Parham said. "When somebody snatches from them the opportunity for them to express themselves through athletics, that can be devastating."

Psychologists say major injuries can bring up lots of questions for players about when and if they will recover and get back to playing. Those questions can lead to anxiety, depression, anger, fear and even guilt about letting down teammates and fans. And Parham said injured professional athletes such as Foster have an added burden -- worrying about how an injury will affect their job security.

Even after an athletes recover physically, they can still face lingering fears about their ability to perform. Daniel Gould, a professor of sports psychology at Michigan State University, said a full physical recovery may not be enough to prevent a crisis of confidence for some players.

"You've done all you could to recover, but until somebody takes a really hard shot at your knee or your ankle, and you can get up, you're not confident," he said.

Gould said athletic trainers treating Foster would probably watch for signs that he is becoming increasingly anxious or obsessed with his injury throughout his recovery.

Foster may not be the only Colt struggling with thoughts about his devastating injury. Offensive linemen Anthony Castonzo and Ben Iljanana both left the game with knee injuries in Monday's game, adding to a long list of Colts who are disabled, including quarterback Peyton Manning, who is out after having surgery on his neck. Parham said the team's healthy players undoubtedly feel the effects of their teammates' absences.

"When you're a band of brothers on a team, when one hurts, they all hurt," Parham said. "They'll definitely feel that missing link."

The impact of Foster's injury was apparent in his teammates' reactions Monday night. Several Colts players appeared to be fighting back tears, and a few circled around the doctors who were tending to Foster, offering him some encouragement.

Shilagh Mirgain, a sports psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said players who see a gruesome injury like Foster's may worry about their own vulnerabilities, even though they were not the ones suffering injury. But she said that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

"If the team has an opportunity to talk about and process what happened during that game, their reactions, and some of their own fears and concerns about injury, that can also allow the team to unify," Mirgain said.

In the season ahead, Mirgain said the Colts could even turn their negative fears into a positive performance.

"It's an opportunity for the Colts to commit to taking care of themselves, physically and mentally," she said. "They can still have a very successful season going forward."

Foster underwent surgery on his ankle Monday night in a Tampa hospital, and speculations are flying that the injury will end his season. But sports psychologists say a few things could make his recovery easier. Setting small, daily goals for recovery might help him feel accomplished, and leaning on friends, family and teammates for support can be essential.

The Colts' support for Foster was evident Monday night, as his teammates rallied at his side and fans roared when he was carried off the field. Mirgain said Foster's fist-pumping acknowledgement of this support is a good sign for his recovery.

On Tuesday, Foster sent a grateful tweet to his fans.

"Thank u all 4 such kind words. I thank u Lord in Advance. Women around the world gettn treated 4 cancer. May God have mercy on all o us."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hearts of Cheerleaders and Ballplayers Can Suddenly Stop, Say Experts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- An apparently healthy high school cheerleader who died after collapsing during a football game this past weekend likely experienced sudden cardiac arrest, a rare occurrence that has again raised questions about the value of widespread screening.

Bystanders at Friday night's game briefly revived Angela Gettis, 16, of George Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, using CPR, but she was pronounced dead at a local hospital after her heart stopped.

Gettis had no known health problems; her family is awaiting results of an autopsy to learn how her life ended so unexpectedly. A member of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, Gettis had planned to major in forensic science in college.

Her death comes on the heels of sudden cardiac deaths among a half-dozen brawny high school football players in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida as they trained in the suffocating summer heat. The boys had several things in common, including having heavy-set physiques and collapsing early in the practice season, a likely result of pushing themselves when they weren't accustomed to the exertion.

Cheerleaders can be similarly stricken. On April 5, a 16-year-old girl collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest during cheerleading tryouts at North Hunterdon High School in New Jersey. Quick-thinking coaches and parents, who had been trained in CPR and use of automatic external defibrillators, sprang to action and saved her life.

However, in many cases, youngsters don't survive these episodes. Janet Zilinski, an 11-year-old New Jersey girl, died from sudden cardiac arrest after cheerleading practice on Aug. 10, 2006. Her parents, Jim and Karen Zilinski, created the Janet Zilinski Memorial Fund, which is pressing for a New Jersey law requiring AEDs at all public and private schools and sports fields and mandating that schools and sports camps have trained responders as well as emergency action plans.

Sudden cardiac deaths remain relatively rare, with an estimated one in 100,000 to three in 100,000 young U.S. athletes succumbing annually, said Dr. Kathleen Maginot, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The incidence could be as rare as 1 in 1 million among children from ages 1 to 18, said Dr. Ian Law, a specialist in inherited heart rhythm disorders at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Maginot and Law said the No. 1 condition leading to the youngsters' deaths is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a congenital problem in which the heart becomes abnormally thickened. Second are abnormalities that impede blood flow through the arteries (not to be confused with artery-clogging accumulations of plaque), Law said.

Other conditions that can set the stage for sudden cardiac death include inherited arrhythmias, in which the heart beats erratically; infection of the heart muscle called viral myocarditis; other heart enlargements that weaken the heart; and inherited heart defects, including those that have been surgically repaired, Maginot said.

Before youngsters engage in vigorous sports, their parents and coaches should be aware of cardiac risks such as a family history of sudden death before the age of 50, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or a history of fainting during exertion. The warning signs include passing out during exercise (which some athletes may try to hide out of fear they'll be told to stop playing), as well as palpitations and chest pain. Maginot also cautioned that episodes that look like seizures may not be epilepsy, but might result from irregular heart rhythms that interfere with blood flow to the brain.

Although an increasing number of schools now monitor athletes' heart rates, which should revert to normal after increasing during exertion, widespread cardiac screening of young athletes has not been adopted by either the American Heart Association or the American College of Cardiologists.

Maginot said cardiac screening "would definitely pick up" abnormalities among some young athletes who died earlier this year, such as those whose inherited cardiac abnormalities put them "at increased risk of arrhythmias after their life-saving surgical repairs." However, she said, had athletes who developed viral infections before their deaths been given typical screening tests last fall, the tests "would likely have been normal since they did not develop their illness until later."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UAB Psychologist Warns Fans of 'Football Addiction'

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- A psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham says there is a fine line between a dedicated fan and a football addict when it comes to following one of America's most popular sports.

With the football season in full swing, researchers at the UAB School of Public Health say fans need to be careful of crossing the fine line between fandom and obsession. In a university news release, Dr. Josh Klapow warns that football obsession can threaten people's relationships and quality of life.

"It's not how much time you spend watching football that matters, it's whether or not that is causing negative behaviors in your life. Whether it's 10 hours per week or 40, the issue is its effect on your real-life obligations," said Klapow.

Klapow outlined several indicators that can help fans identify a potential problem. According to Klapow, behaviors such as thinking about football while doing other things, becoming irritated when a game is interrupted, missing important family or other events to watch a game, and becoming depressed, angry or violent when a certain team loses are all signs that someone has become addicted.

Klapow encourages fans to keep a weekly log of time spent watching or following sports to monitor whether or not one is becoming addicted to that sport.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sidney Crosby Says Concussion Won’t Knock Him Out of NHL

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images(PITTSBURGH) -- Pittsburgh Penguins hockey star Sidney Crosby won’t be taking the ice again until after he recovers fully from concussion-like symptoms brought about by repeated blows to the head last season, ESPN reported. The symptoms have kept him from playing since January.

During a news conference Thursday, the 24-year-old former MVP attempted to quell speculation that he would not return to the game but emphasized that he would not play again until symptoms, including “fogginess” and migraines, improve.

“Maybe I can get by with 90 percent, maybe I couldn’t but I’m not going to roll the dice with that,” he told reporters.

Crosby is the latest professional athlete to struggle with head trauma, and his case brings yet more attention to the debate about what needs to be done to protect these athletes from concussions.

Indeed, the story comes on the same day as an NPR report on the new NFL safety rules that will go into effect with the first kickoff of the season Thursday night, even as some fans argue that attempts to control the hard hits will detract from the game.

Voices urging more protection for players are growing louder, however. The suicide of Nashville Predators star Wade Belak last month, the third death in recent months of a hard-hitting NHL enforcer in which suicide was suspected, sparked speculation that the long-term effects of head trauma might be to blame.

Former pro football player Dave Duerson committed suicide in February by shooting himself in the chest. He requested in a suicide note that his brain be sent to the NFL brain bank for study. In May, researchers found that his brain did indeed show evidence of head trauma.

And it’s not just suicides. The father of 22-year-old Derek Sheely, starting fullback for the Frostburg State University Bobcats in Western Maryland, suspects that a brain injury was to blame for his son’s death earlier this month.

Professional sports organizations are starting to recognize the problem. The National Football League began hanging posters in locker rooms last season that describe symptoms of concussions and, for the first time, warning players and their coaches of the potential long-term consequences. And the latest offering from the popular Madden NFL video game franchise even has a feature that will take a virtual player out of the game if he experiences a concussion, an addition developers say they hope will bring the serious consequences of head trauma home for young fans.

But cases such as Crosby’s suggest that more needs to be done to protect young athletes from concussions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Teen Boxing Is Too Dangerous, Doctors Say

Photos dot com/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Youth boxing may be too risky, doctors say.  The amount of risks presented by the sport is simply too great, according to a policy statement released by pediatrician groups in the U.S. and Canada.

"Children and adolescents should not be participating in boxing because of the risk of head and facial injuries," statement co-author Laura Purcell, MD says, according to WebMD.

Previous research has proven that brain injury is the biggest risk posed by boxing, with more than half of boxing injuries being concussions, WebMD reports.

Purcell tells WebMD, "There is no evidence that headgear prevents concussions."

Because children's brains are more susceptible to physical harm such as concussions, pediatricians are urging health care professionals to "vigorously oppose boxing for any child or adolescent," citing longer recovery in children.

And doctors are not only worried about risk of brain and facial injury.  The process of "making weight," or any practice employed to qualify for competition in a certain weight class could lead to unhealthy habits of eating or fluid restriction, according to child care physicians.

The two groups, the Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, joined efforts in authoring the policy statement published in the journal Pediatrics, updating a 1997 statement by U.S. doctors.  The Canadian Pediatric Society is addressing youth boxing for the first time, according to WebMD.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Athlete Deaths Force School Sports Makeover in Arkansas

Comstock/Thinkstock(NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- This month's death of four high school football players in the heat-stricken South is helping to spotlight a current recalibration of how much physical exertion young athletes can endure -- one change in what is a broader effort to minimize their risk of injury and illness.

For its part, the Arkansas Activities Association now orders coaches to complete online courses in heat-related illness, which has been cited but not conclusively linked to the Aug. 1 collapse of a 15-year-old Arkansas football player with an underlying heart problem that had gone undiagnosed.  He died shortly after collapsing.

Arkansas coaches also must undergo training in methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, a type of staph bacteria that does not respond to antibiotics that have been commonly dispatched to treat staph infections.

Since at least the early 2000s, schools across the country have reported outbreaks of this potentially deadly infection, spread largely through skin-to-skin contact, or through open wounds exposed to the bacteria.  In 2003, a Centers for Disease Control report spotlighted outbreaks of the disease in California, Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Last year in Arkansas, one high school athlete died from the infection and another suffered a heart attack.

More immediately, forecasts that the South's heat wave will extend through September have affirmed the state's recent move to limit two-a-day practices -- especially during extreme heat, when the body requires up to 48 hours to rehydrate -- to every other day, and any single practice session to no more than three hours.

Even southern kids are less acclimated to hot spells than prior generations were, what with many of them spending more time indoors rather than outside nowadays, said Dr. Jimmy Tucker, a sports medicine specialist in Little Rock and a member of the state activities association's sports medicine advisory board.

In keeping with that, other rules, patterned partly after those adopted by the NCAA, also require high school players in Arkansas to weigh in before practice and weigh out afterward.

"If they've lost three or four pounds, that's strictly water and they absolutely have to rehydrate," Tucker said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Tips for Keeping Student-Athletes Safe from Heat Illnesses

BananaStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- The grueling summer heat wave is taking a toll on people, crops and livestock as it blankets the center of the country, and perhaps nobody is exposed to the ravaging heat more than student athletes training for the fall season, practicing hours a day in triple digit temperatures.

"The youngsters and the elderly are the two populations most affected by the heat," said Dr. Wally Ghurabi, the medical director of the UCLA Emergency Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

"In the case of the youngsters, their systems are not as well developed, and the mechanism that the body uses to lower the temperature is hindered by the environmental factors such as the extreme heat, humidity and exercise."

The first level of heat-related illness is heat cramps, during which muscles begin cramping. Next on the continuum would be heat exhaustion, in which the athlete begins to feel fatigued, dizzy and nauseous with potential vomiting. Finally, the mother of all heat related illnesses is heat stroke, in which a person becomes unconscious or delirious and has seizures.

"At this point, the core body temperature is above 106 degrees," said Dr. Ghurabi. "The temperature lowering medication will not work anymore because the thalamus, the part of the brain that controls the body temperature, is malfunctioning."

The normal core body temperature is 98.6 degrees.

With a month of triple digit temperatures forecast in many areas, Rebecca Stearns, the Director of Education for the Korey Stringer Institute, offers advice for student athletes, coaches and parents to keep players safe.

The institute, founded in memory of Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer, who died from exertional heat stroke in 2001 is dedicated to preventing heat-related illnesses through communication prevention and treatment techniques.

Tips for avoiding heat-related incidents:

  • Ensure athletes have extra rest breaks and longer breaks.
  • Ensure athletes are acclimatized to the heat. "When the environment is different from what you are used to exercising in, that is when you have to be careful," said Stearns. Extra caution is especially important during the first 3 to 5 days of practice in the heat or preseason, when most incidents will occur.
  • Reduce the intensity of exercise until your body is used to the heat.
  • Arrive at each practice hydrated, and drink when you can.
  • Educate coaches and athletes about heat-related illness and proper hydration.
  • Reduce the amount of equipment and clothing worn by the athlete.
  • Back off on your intensity if you can.
  • Have practice in the coolest part of the day.
  • Speak up if you do not feel well. If you feel that your body is trying to tell you something, let someone know immediately. If a player or another athlete is struggling more than usual, don't be afraid to say something to ask them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sports for Tots: How Young is Too Young?

Christopher Robbins/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gone are the days of sandbox games and duck, duck, goose -- many young kids these days are gearing up to play soccer, basketball, and football, even though they've only recently mastered the coordination needed to run a straight line.

Though their kids are at an age where attention spans are fleeting and coordination hit or miss, parents throughout the nation have signed up their tots up for programs that teach them how to dribble a basketball, shoot a goal, and make a pass to a teammate -- or at least, attempt to.

Places like the Little Gym, Beginners Edge Sports Training, and Lil' Kickers enroll kids as young as 4 months old in programs aimed at increasing mobility and coordination, with the ultimate goal of teaching them specific sports skills and scrimmaging against one another. Though most of these facilities stick to a noncompetitive, everyone's-a-winner" spirit, many doctors fear that in their efforts to produce super-athletic children, these programs might be overtaxing kids, both physically and emotionally.

"When kids are 3, 4, and 5, it's important for them to develop the fundamental elements of how we move and coordination," says Dr. Ed Laskowski, co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. "That's why free play is great, because kids move in all different ways and learn balance and stability. When you slot them into training specific motions at such a young age, they might not be getting as much variety in their play," he says.

The rules, structure, and independent thinking required for sports may also not be developmentally suitable for kids younger that 5, mental health experts say.

Proponents of toddler sports and pre-sport programs say that when designed correctly, these classes can be fun, challenging, and teach children coordination.

There is also the simpler argument of keeping youngsters active, especially in an age in which kids get hooked on video and computer games, and childhood obesity is on the rise. Add in that many public schools and daycare centers have had to cut physical education and sports activities because of tight budgets, and the draw for parents in signing their kids up for super pee wee leagues becomes obvious.

Among the medical experts who are behind early sports programs, the emphasis is on doing it right: Namely, foster a noncompetitive atmosphere and use tailor-made equipment and exercises that are appropriate for each age level.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Sport Specialization May Lead to Higher Injury Risk in Kids

Comstock/Thinkstock(LEAWOOD, Kan.) -- Kids specializing in one sport could be at an increased risk of injuries, according to new study released Thursday.

The study, presented by the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, compared athletes who came in for physicals with those who came in for treatment of a sport-related injury.  The researchers found that about 60 percent of the injured athletes specialized in a sport, compared to 30 percent of the athletes in the noninjured group.

The injured athletes were also found to have spent about 11 hours per week training for their sport as opposed to eight hours per week for the uninjured kids.

The authors concluded that there may be a relationship between sports specialization and risk of injury, but this may be influenced by training intensity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Active Girls Twice as Likely to Experience Stress Fractures

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Young girls who participate in physical activities for several hours a week are twice as likely to suffer from a stress fracture than girls who do not, according to a study published Monday in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital followed 6,800 adolescent girls for seven years and found that those who were physically active for eight or more hours a week were more likely to develop the injury.  The increased risk for stress fractures was specifically associated with running, basketball, cheerleading and gymnastics.

The study also found that young girls with a history of osteoporosis in their family were almost twice as likely to develop a stress fracture, putting them at an even higher risk if they also engage in the specified sports.  These girls are advised to lower their fracture risk by incorporating more lower-impact activities into their weekly routines.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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