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Preventing Back-To-School sports injuries

August 30, 2013

Media Contact: Keith.O’, 413-794-7656


SPRINGFIELD – It’s a sure sign that the school bells will soon begin ringing once again – sports teams gearing up in the waning warm summer days practicing and participating in scrimmages outdoors on local fields.

“The hot and humid days of late summer can place extra stress on even the healthiest of young athletes as they practice out on the field,” said Dr. Yvonne Paris, chief, Pediatric Cardiology, Baystate Children’s Hospital.

“We see many young athletes who do not keep up with their fluids on especially hot days resulting in dizziness and fainting. Staying hydrated is very important and the body needs to be replenished with water, about one quart per hour during the steamy weather,” she added.


Doctors at the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) note the frequency and type of injury will vary according to the nature and the demand of the sport. Contact and collision sports such as basketball, ice hockey and soccer are associated with a greater risk of acute injuries such as sprains, strains, contusions, fractures and dislocations. Endurance sports may have lower injury rates, but may have a higher proportion of overuse injuries such as tendinitis, apophysitis and stress fractures.

Although most of these injuries will be minor, some will be severe resulting in chronic health conditions. According to the state Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), one in four Massachusetts teens will be seen annually in emergency departments such as Baystate Medical Center, or admitted to the hospital for a sports-related injury. For that reason, they recommend that schools require coaches to be trained and certified in each sport they coach, maintain and improve protective equipment, and collect and maintain injury data from all practices and games to identify local injury patterns.

According to Dr. Julio Martinez-Silvestrini, staff physiatrist and a board certified sports medicine specialist at Baystate Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, many of these injuries are due to fatigue, overuse and poor conditioning. And, when injury does occur, full recovery is not a guarantee. More focus needs to be placed on prevention, he said.

“We also see a lot of concussions very early into the practice season when some student
athletes are out of shape,” said Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini, who is fellowship-trained at the Mayo Clinic and board certified in sports medicine. “If an athlete is not really fit for the particular sport he or she is playing, the risk of concussions and other injuries is higher.”


But, while football may see most of the publicity when the topic of sports concussions makes the news, other team sports such as basketball and soccer are likely to lead to injury and concussions, as well as bicycling and playground activities.

“Before signing up for a sport, it is important to get a general physical exam. Also, athletes are advised to get fit for their sport rather than use the sport to get fit. If you haven’t maintained good exercise habits during the summer months and are out of shape, it is important to begin pre-conditioning as soon as possible to avoid sprains and strains which could sideline you,” said Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini.


According to the Baystate physiatrist, exercise is one of the most effective ways of preventing injury. Athletes should warm up and stretch lightly prior to athletic activity and then stretch more aggressively afterward.

Research validates that slow, sustained stretching is significantly safer and more effective than a bouncing, also known as ballistic, stretch. Although as beneficial as stretching is, it will not prevent injuries when athletes push their bodies too far. Everyone has a different threshold and must tune into his or her own limitations, said Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini.

He emphasized never to play through an injury.
“Don’t try to hide an injury when it occurs, sacrificing your health just to win the game. Get immediate help from a coach or trainer and be sure to mention everything that hurts or aches. All coaches should have a plan for dealing with emergencies,” said Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini.


Baystate Rehabilitation Care holds a Sports Clinic every Monday from 1 to 7 p.m. at their 360 Birnie Ave. location in Springfield. They also provide acute care for sports, exercise and other athletic injuries within 24-48 hours.

“My personal goal is to evaluate and treat athletes as soon as possible to minimize their time off the court or field and to help them recover fast. A ‘wait-and-see’ approach may work for some types of injuries, but not usually for sports injuries,” said Dr. Martinez-Silvestrini.


For more information about Baystate Rehabilitation Care and the Sports Clinic, call 413-794-1600 or visit

Baystate Medical Center’s Sports Concussion Clinic offers a comprehensive program modeled after the pioneering University of Pittsburgh Sports Concussion Program. The clinic evaluates and treats injured athletes through a multi-disciplinary program involving neuropsychology, physiatry, and rehabilitation care at the hospital. To schedule an appointment at the clinic, call 413-794-5555, or for more information, visit