Earlier this month, the American Academy of Pediatrics generated headlines by publicizing a study that was presented on Sept. 16 at the group’s annual national meeting in Chicago. The study showed that youth and high school girl soccer players were five times more likely than boys to continue playing — and not inform any responsible adult — after suffering a concussion.
There were other studies presented at that meeting but none received the coverage that the concussion-related one did. Ditto for other sports-related studies and guidelines published by the AAP this month in its journal Pediatrics. Too bad, because the issues covered in those articles are just as important and would be far less troublesome if we all just shared our pediatricians’ concern and followed their advice.
For instance, two other studies presented at the Chicago meeting were significant to student-athletes. One found that sport specialization was associated with significantly worse mood, stress, fatigue, soreness and sleep quality among female youth soccer players.
The other showed that post-surgical opioid pain medications prescribed after common surgeries may become a pathway to continued, nonmedical opioid use by teens and young adults. Two of the surgeries identified in the study were elbow fracture repair and arthroscopic knee repair.
Then yesterday morning, the AAP released online a clinical report entitled, “Infectious Diseases Associated With Organized Sports and Outbreak Control,” detailing the types, treatments and risk factors of infection, which are especially prevalent in close contact sports such as football and wrestling. The report will appear in print in the October issue of Pediatrics.
“Besides showering and washing hands, athletes should be discouraged from sharing their water bottles, towels, mouth guards and other personal items,” said H. Dele Davis, MD, lead author of the report and member of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, in a press release from the AAP.
“Most sports-related infections are spread by skin contact, contaminated food or water, respiratory droplets or airborne particles,” the press release continued. “About 10 to 15 percent of injuries that force college-level athletes to take time off from playing a sport are due to infectious disease.”
Common sicknesses spread by skin contact, according to the press release, include Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus (MRSA); Group A Streptococcus; herpes simplex virus; tinea capitis (ringworm); tinea pedis (athlete’s foot); scabies and lice.
Airborne infections that can be spread during athletic participation include the chicken pox, measles and mumps.
To minimize risks, the AAP recommends student-athletes properly launder uniforms and avoiding sharing drinks or personal products, such as razors.
Meanwhile, athletic administrators should have a plan for cleaning and maintaining athletic equipment and playing/practice surfaces.
Special attention should be devoted to proper management of spilled blood and other bodily fluids. Football players — and particularly wrestlers — should be routinely screened during practices and before and after competitions for skin infections.
“The best thing coaches can do is identify the problem early, even if it is something as benign-looking as a cold sore, so they can prevent its spread,” said Stephen G. Rice, MD, PhD, MPH, and a member of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. “We want the students not only to participate in sports, but to have a good experience.”
The less time spent in a doctor’s office, the better the experience will be, not only for the student but for the parent’s wallet.