STOP athlete's injuries

Southwest Louisiana loves America's past time, but with a healthy competitive spirit can come unhealthy training. Around the nation about 3.5 million children under 14 suffer sports injuries each year.

"And a large percentage of that is little league especially pitchers," said Dr. Brett Cascio, orthopedic surgeon at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Cascio is part of "STOP", sports trauma and overuse prevention, that aims to end a growing epidemic of injuries.

"Kids are learning earlier and earlier to throw harder and to throw what's call breaking balls, curve balls or sliders. The emphasis is not on fun anymore it's just on winning," said Dr. Cascio.

He said little leaguers start early on with a emphasis on winning. Sometimes players are pitching or playing back to back games in tournaments without much downtime, said Dr. Cascio.

"Until about 17 years old kids should not be throwing over 100 pitches in a game and if they get to that level they should have several days of rest in between," recommended Dr. Cascio.

"They have open growth plates still. They're still growing and they are putting a lot of stress on their growth plates which are not ready for all the stress that they're putting on it," continued Dr. Cascio.

Also, young players are still developing muscle strength that can protect those joints.

"They're doing it year round for multiple teams and it's just too much more their little bodies to take," said Dr. Cascio.

An injury early on can end an athletes future career, cause arthritis, but worst of all, "it can just take the fun away from playing," added Dr. Cascio.

He said children under 14 should not throw curve balls and children under 10 should not try fastballs, but he added that it is up to coaches and parents to keep them safe and healthy.

Lake Charles Memorial Hospital is one of the testing sites for a nationwide study investigating the cause of shoulder and elbow injuries in young athletes. The study is free to enroll, but to qualify the child must have pain already in their elbow or shoulder. Call to set up an appointment at (337) 494-4900.

Copyright 2011 KPLC. All rights reserved.