The warm weather is finally here — and with that, so too is the increased risk of injuries to the knees or shoulders resulting from summer sports activities.
According to Robert More, MD, chairman of Surgery at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington and managing partner and head of Sports Medicine at MidJersey Orthopaedics (which has offices in Flemington, Bridgewater and Washington), the past year has been anything but normal.
“Last summer, youth sports were shut down because of the pandemic, so we saw almost no young athletes coming into our office with injuries,” said Dr. More, who’s forged long-standing relationships with athletic trainers in area schools and gyms as well as coaches of local club teams. “A number of adults who were sheltered in place bought indoor exercise bikes and we saw a lot of overuse injuries among recreational adult athletes. This summer, however, youth sports is back in a big way and the participants are going all out; they went from doing minimal activity to doing a ton of activity and we’re now seeing a lot of injuries among youth athletes who’d gotten out of shape and are now overcompensating,” he said.
“Among the throwing and overhead sports, which include baseball, softball, volleyball, tennis and pickleball, we’re seeing such injuries as tendonitis, bursitis, overuse inflammation, and overall shoulder and elbow pain from people playing excessively,” Dr. More said. “We’re also seeing high school and college baseball players stretching out and/or tearing their ulnar collateral ligament from too many throws in a short period of time,” he noted of a condition that can necessitate Tommy John surgery.
“Five years ago, we’d refer those patients to teaching hospitals in New York City or Philadelphia, but we now have the training and technology to address them right here at our hospital,” said Dr. More, who has successfully performed a number of these surgeries. “We can now treat those locally with good results.”
Among running-related sports, including track, soccer and jogging/running, “Many athletes ramped up too quickly and went from doing nothing to doing competitive meets and high mileage,” he said. “As a result, we’re seeing cases of tendonitis in the knee and foot, overuse inflammation of the growth plates, and knee and ankle sprains from excessive amounts of activity. We try to dial these athletes back and have them mix in strength, cross training and flexibility activities so that they’re not just running every day.”
Among his top tips, Dr. More recommends that both youth and adult recreational athletes avoid doing their sport(s) to excess.
“In addition to stretching on a regular basis, you need to mix things up by building in other exercises such as swimming, biking and strength training to avoid muscle and tendon strains,” he said. “You want to avoid doing the same things every day and summer is a great time to take advantage of all of the opportunities to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities.” In addition, he said, “ensure that you’re getting adequate rest and recovery time — even professional athletes take a day or two off a week to give their body a complete break — stay well-hydrated and maintain a healthy diet that limits ingredients known to cause inflammation, such as grain/gluten and refined sugars.”
For those who do sustain an injury, “We’re now able to perform an exciting new procedure for the knee called ‘matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation,’ or MACI, which is delivering great results,” Dr. More said. “Previously, there was no good way to replace or heal injuries to cartilage on the surface of the bone and these could develop into degenerative problems in the knee later on. However, we can now take cartilage cells from the corner of the knee, grow and multiply them in the lab, place them on a matrix, and implant them back into the knee to replace defects in the cartilage,” he said. “We’ve performed a number of these procedures locally and outcomes have been very good.”
Overall, Dr. More encourages athletes to be kind to their bodies. “While we’re all thankful that the pandemic is behind us, it’s important that athletes not overdo it on activities,” he advised. “But in the event that a knee or shoulder injury does occur, our team will be here to get you back in action.”
For More Information:
— By Susan Bloom