US Sports Docs, Tennis Association Launch Youth Campaign

Laird Harrison

June 04, 2012

June 4, 2012 (San Francisco, California) — The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has teamed up with the US Tennis Association (USTA) in a campaign to make children's sports less dangerous, starting with a junior version of tennis, the 2 organizations announced here at the ACSM 59th Annual Meeting.

Children are hurting themselves by playing sports too competitively at a young age, said Michael Bergeron, PhD, executive director of the new ACSM National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute.

"We want to change the culture of youth sports," he said at a press conference. "Injuries caused in a variety of ways are exponentially increasing."

High-school athletes alone suffer 2 million injuries a year, according to an ACSM press release.

An ACSM survey found that 91% of Americans feel that participation in sports is important for children, and 94% feel more needs to be done to ensure the health and safety of young athletes.

The institute will focus on sports trauma (including concussion and brain injury), the environment (including exertional heat illness and stroke), overload and overuse, and chronic disease (such as type 1 diabetes and sickle cell anemia).

In collaboration with Sanford Health, a healthcare system based in Fargo, North Dakota and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the institute plans to research injuries in children and develop guidelines.

As an example of the kind of changes envisioned, the organizations showed off scaled-down versions of tennis to be played by children 10 years and younger, and those 8 years and younger.

The children play on smaller courts, with smaller racquets and balls that move more slowly and don't bounce as high.

Before the press conference, children demonstrated by whacking the big, colorful balls around the lobby of the convention center where the meeting was held.

"This is only the fifth rules change in the history of the sport," said Brian Hainline, MD, medical officer for the USTA.

Children's sports organizations must put less emphasis on competition and more on fun, said Olympic swimmer Gary Hall Jr.

Hall, who won 10 Olympic medals after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, remembered his childhood swim club purchasing an extra freezer because so many swimmers needed to ice their shoulders. "I think if we can merge fun back into sports, we can reduce injuries," he said.

Dr. Bergeron, Dr. Hainline, and Mr. Hall have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 59th Annual Meeting. Presented June 1, 2012.

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