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Health Team

Duke sports medicine offers specialty exams to give youth green light to play

Posted February 6, 2019 6:15 a.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2019 6:57 a.m. EST

Many young athletes are ready for winter to end and for spring sports to begin.

Most schools require a physical exam, which is typically performed with your family's pediatrician, but some parents turn to specialists for extra assurance that their son or daughter can play with confidence.

Seventeen-year-old Trexler Ivey is a two-sport athlete. In baseball, he doubles as a pitcher and outfielder. When fall football comes around, Ivey plays as a quarterback for Wakefield High School. A few years ago, in eighth grade, a basketball injury that benched him.

"I broke my foot twice in one season," Trexler said.

Trexler's mother brought him to see Duke orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein, who offers her musculo-skeletal expertise for young athletes in sports clinics in Wake Forest and Knightdale.

"When kids are starting up a new season of sports, it's important to find out if they've had a prior injury and lingering symptoms," Wittstein said. Often, those problems include ankle sprains, knee ligament injuries and shoulder pain.

"It's important to zone in on those exams and make sure they don't have any residual deficits before we send them out back to their sport," said Wittstein.

Sixteen-year-old Lindsey Diehl's X-rays of her collar bone were the focus of her clinic visit. Her injury came last fall just before the tournament end of the season began.

"Someone pushed me over and I just landed kind of weird on it, and I heard a pop, and I knew something was wrong," said Diehl.

The injury only required a sling to allow healing.

The exams include all those offered through primary care offices, including vitals like height, weight, blood pressure and vision checks.

Sometimes, Wittstein says, red flags appear.

Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein examines Trexler Ivey's knee

"Like they've had chest pain or shortness of breath or episodes of fainting or heart murmur on their exam. We might refer them to a specialist like a cardiologist."

Advice for all athletes

Warm up

For any sport, it’s best to warm up for 10 to 15 minutes before pushing the pace. This allows the muscle fibers to loosen and expand for a smoother, faster stride.

Cross train

In early stages of your training, don’t be afraid to incorporate other endurance activities such a swimming, cycling or rowing as your body’s fitness improves.

Duke orthopedic surgeon examines 16 year old Lindsey Diehl's collar bone

Use your strength

Weight sessions of 30 to 45 minutes 2 to 3 times per week focused on core and major muscle groups in the legs and arms can prevent overuse injuries such as stress fractures and tendonitis.

If you play a particular sport

For Track & Field: Start low and go slow. Follow the “10 percent rule” of time or mileage increase per week and stick to it.

Soccer: Avoid tweaking your ACL. Eleven or more exercises and drills can help strengthen the major muscle groups of your legs to prevent an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear.

Baseball & Softball: Rest for resilience. Resiliency is the key great training. Studies have shown the best recovery occurs when you get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night and provide your throwing arm adequate recovery between practice sessions.

Accountability. Keep track of your work outs so you know when to cross train, slow down or take a day off. It will also help you look back to understand your progress to your goal.

Enjoy the journey!