Athletes are attracted to participate in sports at the high school level because of the bonding, competition and the many invaluable life lessons that they learn. Unfortunately, an adolescent body is still in the growing process and subject to a greater risk of injury and consequences than in college and the pros. My 40 years of work with professional athletes makes clear how deep and profound athletic denial about how risks is.
It starts early in life in Pop Warner, AYSO and Little League. Athletes are taught to ignore pain, be stoic and not jeopardize their chance to play. Long-term health is an abstract concern, off the radar. Playing the next play becomes everything. This is why it is critical for athletes and their parents, coaches and trainers to make themselves aware of methods of prevention and the most effective treatment of athletic injury.
Dr. Joseph Horrigan, a world-renowned sports medicine specialist, and his DISC Sports and Spine Center, are attempting to bring light into this murky landscape by holding a series of symposiums on the biomechanics of injuries and their prevention. The first session on concussions was held last Thursday evening and these presentations continue every Thursday through May 9 at their clinic in Newport Beach.
Field experts, such as Nike track and field coach John Smith, Oakland Raiders team physician Dr. Fred Nicola and pioneering neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Bray Jr, will be part of the presentations. The series is titled Coaches and Captains, attempting to change the awareness on high school campuses surrounding injury be involving coaches and player team leaders. These tend to be the role models that athletes take their cues from and any change in this paradigm needs to involve them.
Dr. Horrigan has been a focused for the past 25 years on strength and conditioning, and sports medicine. He was conditioning coach for the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and still is club coach for USA Weightlifting. He trained Jennifer Lawrence for her starring role in "The Hunger Games" and consulted on the film "Django Unchained."
I asked Dr. Horrigan for his motivation in holding these conferences and he replied, "If we help one girl and one boy on each team, in each school, each year from having an ACL tear, one less concussion, one less SLAP tear, one less dehydration case,then we will have achieved something great and worthwhile."
Topics will include "Concussions" (my personal crusade), "Improving the 40-Yard Dash","Shoulder Injuries in Overhead Athletes," "Surprising Symptoms of Back Injuries," "ACL Injuries in Athletes" and "Preventing Dehydration." The last topic continues to be a difficulty as the death of a Grambling State athlete after running 4.5 miles in the summer heat of Louisiana -- a wrongful death suit I testified in -- illustrates. Dr. Horrigan made the point that by the time someone recognizes that they are thirsty, they are already dehydrated.
The health of high school athletes in all sports is a serious concern for the schools, the athletes, and their parents. Some of the consequences not only prevent athletes from continuing to participate in sports at that level, they can lead to lifelong health problems.
The exciting news is that medical and training techniques to prevent and treat these athletes are evolving quickly. These seminars have the potential to raise the level of awareness and push this invaluable
field forward and stimulate a national discussion on these issues.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @SteinbergSports.