Tag Archives: sports

6 Things Kids Can Do To Avoid Sports Injuries (Updated Pedcast)

Sports are great, but your child can have too much of a good thing. Your child can learn a lot of valuable skills and life lessons on the court or field, but at some point, the physical and mental rigor of sports can be too much, leading to mental and physical fatigue and injury. In this episode of DocSmo.com, Dr Smolen reviews the AAP guidelines for limiting competitive sports and gives you some common sense guidelines of his own. Continue reading

The Hope I See in NBA Glasses (Article)

Have you heard about the new trend of NBA stars wearing lens-less glasses? This new fashion statement has been attributed to the basketball powerhouse Lebron James. Why in the world would the king of basketball choose nerdy-looking glasses that do not change his vision as a fashion accessory? I think it is also interesting that a player who never stepped foot into a college classroom wants to look collegiate by wearing glasses without lenses. Just an accident? I don’t think so. Rather, I believe that an important signal is being sent to children in America, especially children from disadvantaged families who often have been discouraged from obtaining high academic achievement. With a wink and a nod, maybe Lebron and others are giving children the go-ahead to do their best in school by highlighting the academic look.

I have spent my entire adult life around children of all ages and backgrounds. I tutored in the public schools for ten years in addition to talking to children all day long as part of my medical career. Unfortunately, in the some of poorer communities in Charlotte kids often seem to connect more easily with their sports heroes than with the stars of the academic world. I have really never understood this mindset, but I believe it exists nonetheless; children are taunted and ridiculed if they get good grades, do their work, and achieve in the standard way.

So, back to Lebron and his colleagues. Why did they choose a fashion statement that makes them look more like a college professor than a superstar athlete? They know that the youth of America are carefully watching their every move. Maybe the signal to these children is that academic success is OK for everyone, even children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Maybe the choice they previously were given of choosing low academic achievement or experiencing social isolation is over…the message that effectively keeps so many children in a cycle of failure.

I think it helps our mental health to try to find things to be optimistic about in our own lives every day. I know I am grasping for optimism with my thoughts about lensless eyewear, but when I heard about NBA players wearing glasses, I immediately thought…”Maybe the tide has changed. Maybe there are going to be new rules and hope for so many children that have given up so much.” To Lebron and your colleauges: keep up the good work!

Your comments are welcome at my blog, www.docsmo.com.  Until next time.

Opinions expressed here are solely those of Paul Smolen M.D.

Spinal Cord Injuries in Young People (Article)

Spinal cord injuries often involve young people but  few teens and college students understand the potentially life threatening risks that come with playing many popular sports. Unfortunately, with their youth often comes a feeling of invulnerability, and the belief that they are impervious to injury. It’s all part of being young, but all it only takes is one fall, or one bad tackle to turn a cheerleading stunt or football game into a literal nightmare. Spinal cord injury awareness is often overlooked during training, possibly because concussions and other more common injuries take the forefront. Recently, the Center for Disease Control has provided some specifics with regards  to spinal injuries. According to their statistics, as many as 20,000 spinal cord injuries occur every year, with 12% resulting from sports, and most new cases involve 15-35 year olds. In 2008, 14 injuries resulting in some degree of paralysis were reported, and over the past ten years, the double-digit trend has continued to escalate. Though the numbers may seem small in comparison to other sports injuries, these life-changing and life-threatening injuries could happen at any time to anyone.

The cervical spine is a crucial, highly vulnerable area that safeguards the spinal cord connecting the body to the brain. Spinal cord injuries often occur when athletes tuck or bend their heads towards their chests during a fall. When the head makes contact with the ground or other obstacle, the sensitive cervical vertebrae are jarred, resulting in most commonly in sprains, or stingers (a temporary injury where the head or neck is jerked to one side with the shoulder going in the opposite direction), from which most young people recover. Other spinal cord injuries are much more serious and permanent.  A ruptured disk is a long-term and very painful injury, while a fractured vertebra, more commonly known as a broken neck, is life threatening. If the spinal cord is severed, paralysis or even death may result.

In light of the increased numbers of spinal cord injuries, many schools are trying to institute more safety regulations and are training more highly certified athletic trainers in proper safety techniques to prevent cervical spinal injuries. Coaches are teaching their football players to tackle with the head up, instead of tucked,. A program to prevent “spearing”-headfirst contact in football- has been around since 1976, but it hasn’t been enforced consistently. Most colleges and two-thirds of secondary schools have hired highly trained, qualified athletic trainers who are specially trained to quickly recognize and detect spinal cord injuries.  Some schools even run emergency-response drills on the field with players, first-responders, and athletic trainers in case of a spinal cord injury to learn proper techniques in removing helmets, face gear, and shoulder pads, and immobilizing techniques to prevent further injuries. A few high schools are also allowing parents to sit in on coach and athletic trainer training sessions to increase awareness on spinal cord injuries. If your teen’s school offers these programs, try to attend a session so you can have a one-on-one talk with your teen about the dangers and all of the available safety techniques. If your teen’s school has yet to implement these programs, let administrators know that spinal cord injuries are real and that prevention programs are important. Increasing awareness is the key to beginning the important task of prevention of spinal injuries

Your comments are welcome at my blog, www.docsmo.com.  Feel free to share your thoughts and stories there.  Until next time.

Smo Notes:


1. Wall Street Journal, written by Laura Landro, September 16, 2013 edition.


Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.

From the desk of Doc Smo: Cheerleaders beware! (Article)

Do we have to overdo everything in this part of the world? Look around and you can easily see that many of us eat too much. Ride around on a Saturday or Sunday, the days of rest, and you can see that we work too much. As a pediatrician who cares for injured children who participate in sports, I can attest to the fact that kids are often playing too much and too hard. I refer you to my pedcast called “When sports participation starts to hurt”  Overuse injuries are really common in today’s children. In my opinion, many children are over-coached and hyper-focused on sports success.


All this is a prelude to this week’s interesting article in the Journal Pediatrics about the rise in cheerleading injuries. Cheerleading is becoming a dangerous activity for our children. The authors of this study identify many factors for the rise in risk including obesity of the participants, more challenging stunts, and simply more cheering going on. Whatever the reasons, cheering today isn’t your grandmother’s cheering. Broken noses, neck injuries, concussions happen often under those pom poms.


It’s time for the pendulum to swing back to sports being mostly fun. Play hard and challenge yourself physically, but let’s back off the intensity and danger that have become so prevalent in sports, shall we? Sports are supposed to be activities where we have fun, get fit, and have only a small chance of serious injury.


Your comments are welcome at www.docsmo.com.  Feel free to check out a large library of commentary and information on a myriad of pediatric topics that can be found at my blog.  Until next time, Dr. Paul Smolen


Smo Notes:

PEDIATRICS Vol. 130 No. 5 November 1, 2012pp. 966 -971(doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2480)

When Sports Participation Begins to Hurt (Pedcast)

Sports are great, but your child can have too much of a good thing. Your child can learn a lot of valuable skills and life lessons on the court or field, but at some point, the physical and mental rigor of sports can be too much, leading to mental and physical fatigue and injury. In this episode of DocSmo.com, Dr Smolen reviews the AAP guidelines for limiting competitive sports and gives you some common sense guidelines of his own. Continue reading

Playgrounds, No Parents Allowed! (Pedcast)

Get a heavy dose of Doc Smo opinion that may change the way you think of sports for your children. Give a listen and open your heart.

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