Sports injuries on the rise as high school athletes return, Northwestern Medicine experts note – Shaw Local
MAPLE PARK — High school sports are in full swing and come with the risk of injury, an issue the Campbell family of Maple Park has learned to deal with over the past year.
Nathan Campbell, a sophomore at Kaneland High School, is returning to the baseball field after suffering a serious injury last year.
On October 12, 2021, Carrie Campbell and her husband Ryan Campbell received a phone call informing them that their son – a tri-sport athlete – had been injured during football practice at school.
“And at that point we just didn’t think too much about it, he’s been playing football since he was 5 years old, and no injuries have been this bad,” Carrie said, adding that when she and her husband arrived an the ambulance was already there.
During a tackle drill, Nathan – a freshman at the time – got his foot caught in the mud and while working to get his leg off the ground, a helmet entered, shattering the distal femur of his right leg. He could not stand up or straighten his leg and was taken by ambulance to Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.
“So we came to school thinking, ‘OK, he probably sprained his knee, it’s probably not that bad’ and then we found out it was a big deal,” Carrie said. .
While in the hospital, Carrie received a call from the mother of one of Nathan’s teammates, who works locally in the medical field. The mother referred the Campbells to an orthopedic surgeon who saw them at 7 a.m. the next morning. A day later, Nathan underwent surgery to put his distal femur back in place with medical screws used to hold the broken bone in place.
“Oct. The 12th was the accident, the 13th we saw the orthopedic surgeon at 7 a.m., the 14th this kid had surgery. So that’s how quickly Northwestern dealt with this,” Carrie said. , who noted how grateful they were to be helped so quickly.
Nathan came home in a full cast and went to school in a wheelchair for a week until he was ready to be on crutches. In January, he again underwent surgery to remove the pins from his leg, then began physical therapy. After progressing with his physical therapy, his doctor cleared him in time to play baseball in the spring.
While preparing for the season, Nathan found that his knee was still unstable. He had an MRI after speaking with his surgeon, and an hour after the MRI he was told that his ACL had also been torn in the October 12 football accident. His mother said it was something he hoped he wouldn’t be so hurt. However, there was nothing to do before the bone healed.
“You can’t fix both at the same time because when you have a break you have to immobilize the leg, when you have an ACL reconstruction you have to move your knee right away,” Carrie said.
At that point, the family was then referred to Dr. Akur Rishi Behl, an orthopedic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine who specializes in sports medicine.
Behl said any sport played at a competitive level can cause injury. He said patience was the key to recovering from injuries such as those suffered by Nathan Campbell.
“Even the surgery is only a small part of the whole healing. The post-recovery period is quite intense and quite involved,” Behl said. recovery.”
“A great example before was [former NFL player] Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL, I mean six or seven years ago,” Behl said. “And I think when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and came back at such a high speed at nine months, that kind of created some bad expectations.”
Behl said he always tells his patients that their recovery will be specific to them and that they shouldn’t view professional athletes or outliers as expectations for themselves.
“Everyone is different, some people recover sooner. Some people take longer to recover,” Behl said.
Northwestern Medicine does not track the number of sports injuries seen throughout the year or from year to year, but Behl said injuries are common when a sport begins to prepare for a season, especially sports of contact like football.
“But you can see injuries in any sport, even you know, football, you’ve got a lot of head injuries, basketball, you know, even baseball, you’ll have – every sport I think , has its subset of common injuries that I think you see,” Behl said.
Behl said proper conditioning, along with using the right gear — like helmets, face masks, shoulder pads — is key to preventing injury. There are also other factors, like sleep, that Behl says are easily overlooked.
“I mean it’s always a hard thing, I think, to do at that age is to convince kids that they need to sleep. And then making sure they have a healthy diet is the other, you know big piece, you know I think that’s a challenge,” he said.
Regardless of conditioning, diet, lifestyle choices and equipment, injury is inevitable. And no matter how long the recovery takes, time on the sidelines can be tough for anyone who is used to spending time playing.
“Mentally at first I was wiped out,” Nathan said. “To miss it all and keep getting bad news after bad news has crushed me a lot but currently and after the ACL surgery I was really happy to have all the support not only from my family and friends. friends, but also coaches.”
Nathan, now 16, said he expected it to be weird when he attended Kaneland High School’s first football game of the season, but ended up having a lot of fun cheering his teammates.
Currently, about seven months into his ACL reconstruction, Nathan is focused on physical therapy and is looking forward to a full recovery by January 2023. After that, he will go straight into baseball practice to be ready. for the season in March.
“I had discussions with my father, my teammates, my friends and everything about my future in the sport,” he said. “So in the future, I’m just going to go up and pursue baseball as my dream sport rather than doing all three. [football, basketball and baseball] in the future.”
Her father said the renewed attention is the only silver lining that comes with it.
“It really gave Nate a chance to reflect and think about the different sports he was playing,” Ryan said. “And he was great at all these different sports, but what he realized was that baseball was what he missed the most.”
“And now that we’re kind of into the seasons and the high school career, it’s very difficult to be a multi-sport athlete,” Ryan said. “But it gave him the opportunity to really focus on what he really loves.”
Dr. Brian Babka, who works in the department of sports medicine and exercise medicine in Northwestern Medicine’s sports medicine division, said athletes need to be careful when multiplying the sports they play.
“It’s a notorious time of year where high school sports will start to overlap with club sports,” Babka said, noting that injuries from overuse of multiple sports have become a bigger issue in recent years. years, because children will specialize in one sport and play all year round. while playing other sports in high school.
“For example, football players coming out of summer baseball, getting ready for fall baseball, but now football has also started,” Babka said. “And so they double up on practices or games or matches, and it becomes overuse.”
“I think what people forget when you’re a student-athlete or an athlete, the lowest fruits are actually sleep, food, and recovery. The things that are actually free are the things that are in makes the most important ones. You know, getting quality sleep, quality nutrition, quality hydration,” Babka said.
With students returning to school and participating in fall sports, Babka said he’s starting to see common injuries around this time of year.
“You know we had our first game of football last week, we’re definitely coming out of musculoskeletal injuries, our bruises, contusions, broken bones, skin lacerations, head injuries such as concussions,” Babka said. “So it’s usually our typical back-to-school injuries, and our back-to-school kind of stuff that I see pretty primarily in the office.
Despite the injury, the Campbells were not deterred from participating in sports.
“Accidents happen, you know,” Carrie said. “It’s just that when you play a sport you take the risk of getting hurt and you hope it doesn’t happen, or if it does you hope for a sprain, but sometimes it’s more than that and it’s that’s what we had to deal with.”
Nathan’s resilience and commitment to getting back to what he loves is a good thing, Behl said.
“We don’t want the fear of injury to prohibit anyone from participating in sports,” Behl said. “Sport offers a wide variety of not only physical but mental benefits to young people.”
Nathan said other young athletes struggling with injuries should keep pushing forward.
“If you keep thinking about the past, it’s just going to get worse,” he said. “Keep your head up and keep moving forward.”