It hurt and looked pretty bad after another wrestler fell on Brock Beins at practice, dislocating his elbow.
“When you have a child who is injured, it is panic,” says Brock’s mother, Sandra. “Sam, the athletic trainer at Pattonville, told us to contact Katie at Cardinal Glennon SportsCare.”
Brock, 17, is a senior at Pattonville High School, where he has lettered in football, track and wrestling. He was treated at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital by Lauren Smith, PA, a SLUCare sports medicine physician assistant, and returned to sprints and pole-vaulting in the spring track season.
“Katie got the process moving quickly. It is nice to have competent, professional people looking out for you,” mom says. “They popped his elbow back in place and got him a movable brace and physical therapy,” adds Brock’s dad, Mike.
Pattonville High School, where Samantha Keeler is the athletic trainer, is one of more than 100 schools and organizations, across a wide swath of Illinois and Missouri, that are supported by SportsCare. “We provide education on sports medicine and partner with our organizations to help them navigate the health care system,” says Katie Smith, MEd, ATC, LAT, SportsCare outreach manager. Outreach liaisons Emma Blankenship, ATC, LAT, and Amanda Sullivan, MS, ATC, LAT, also keep in touch with young athletes. “In 2016 we helped more than 500 patients get into SSM Health Cardinal Glennon to see the right people and get the right services,” Smith says.
“Sports are a big part of life for children and teens,” Smith says. “Kids are playing organized sports and getting direction earlier and the level of play is increasing. We are seeing kids with the types of injuries we used to see in adults.”
Young athletes play for clubs as well as school teams so they may be in uniform year-round. “Club sports are fantastic because they keep kids active, but a lot of times kids focus on one sport very early,” Smith says. “That causes 90% of over-use injuries — doing the same movements over and over.”
“We see a lot of elbow and arm over-use injuries in baseball and softball. We see knee and ankle over-use injuries in soccer. We recommend that kids don’t specialize in one sport until high school.”
Ongoing skeletal growth is another reason to delay specialization, she says. “Until kids hit 17 or 18 their bone growth plates are still open. Growth plate injuries in children can be detrimental so it is essential that kids be treated by pediatric orthopedic specialists. Pediatric orthopedics is very specialized. We are fortunate to have specialists who treat things that are very different from adult injuries.”
The goal of SportsCare, she says, “is to evaluate each kiddo’s needs and send him or her to the most appropriate facility and specialist. Some families don’t need hospital services and we can offer advice on how to manage injuries at home. Our hope is to get them back to being physically active.” That prescription worked for Brock. “It was good,” he says. “We didn’t have to wait too long.”
“Youngsters will play countless hours of sports this summer, when hydration is the first key to safety,” Smith says. “When we are dehydrated our muscles fatigue and this is when injuries happen. Kids don’t think they have time to stop playing to take a drink of water.”
Rotating through different sports will minimize over-use of the joints, as will monitoring pitch counts in baseball and softball. “We know kids at certain ages should only be throwing certain types of pitches and watching counts,” Smith says. Pain should not be ignored, she cautions. “If an activity is causing physical trouble, they probably shouldn’t be doing it. If they are still having pain, ask the appropriate people what to do.”
The SportsCare website, cardinalglennon.com/sportscare, offers more than two dozen injury prevention and safety sheets. The SSM Health Cardinal Glennon SportsCare team can be reached 24/7 at 314-577-5640.