As reported by Jason Subic for the Daily Gazette
Sunday September 12, 2010
GLOVERSVILLE — When Bill Oates was 10 years old, his Little League coach taught him how to throw a curve ball. When he was a freshman in college, he had “Tommy John” reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow. Today he says both things should have never happened. “That’s an inappropriate age to teach that pitch. It requires a drastic amount of torque and strain on the elbow. You really can’t teach that kind of pitch until the pitcher is 16 to 18 when they have developed enough for that kind of violent pitch,” Oates said. “After the surgery my elbow never came back the same way. There’s a good chance it will be a major problem for me for the rest of my life.” Oates is the director of sports medicine and rehab at Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville. He said his personal experience with an “over-use” sports injury motivated him to spearhead an effort to partner his hospital with the national STOP Sports Injuries campaign backed by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. He said Nathan Littauer Hospital is the first hospital north of New York City to join the campaign. “This is an awareness campaign where we are hopefully providing an education to the community about over-use injuries, concussions and heat illness,” he said. “Whether it be athlete, coach, parent, athletic director, pee wee supervisor — everyone needs to have the tools necessary to make a knowledgeable decision about keeping athletes safe on the field and out of the operating room.” Nathan Littauer Hospital is hosting an information clinic Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:15 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on Route 30 in Johnstown. The event will feature information about how to avoid common over-use sports injuries. Lisa Weisenberger, the director of communications for the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, said the STOP Sports Injuries campaign was launched in April because of a growing trend in serious mishaps. “More kids are participating in sports year-round and are specializing in sports, which is causing a lot of the injuries to happen,” she said. “We’re trying to really get a grass-roots effort going to educate people about this problem in local communities like Nathan Littauer’s. People need to remember that kids are not professionals and they aren’t meant to be pitching 180 times in a game and then pitching the next day.” Since 2000 there has been a fivefold increase in the number of serious shoulder and elbow injuries among youth baseball and softball players, according to a study by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. The same study found that among athletes aged 5 to 14, 28 percent of football players, 25 percent of baseball players, 22 percent of soccer players, 15 percent of basketball players and 12 percent of softball players were injured while playing their respective sports. The STOP Sports Injuries campaign provided statistics from medical studies that illustrate the trend toward more severe injuries among young athletes. According to STOP, more than 3.5 million children under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year, with children ages 5 to 14 accounting for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals. More statistics are available on the group’s website, stopsportsinjuries.org. Oates said even in the cold weather of the Northeast young athletes can find ways to practice one sport year-round, which he said is a mistake. He said athletes should play several sports to give their bodies rest and develop different athletic skills. Nathan Littauer is also joining with Broadalbin-Perth Central School to implement new sports safety guidelines across the school’s sports teams. Oates said he will continually monitor how the safety guidelines are used and whether they appear to be preventing injuries.