James R. Andrews, MD, a former president of the American Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), has always had a keen interest in injury prevention in young athletes. In 2008, in cooperation with the AOSSM, he initiated the international STOP Sports Injuries Campaign to help curtail “the escalation of injuries in youth sports.” The campaign was a major focus of his AOSSM presidency.
AAOS NOW spoke with Dr. Andrews about this important initiative.
AAOS Now: What is the STOP Sports Injuries Campaign?
Dr. Andrews: STOP stands for Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention in youth sports. This program is a national education initiative that was initiated in August 2008 by AOSSM and then launched with our founding supporters (AAOS, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Athletic Trainers’ Association, Sports Physical Therapy Section, National Strength and Training Association, Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America, Safe Kids USA, and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine) in April 2010. It was developed as a comprehensive public outreach program focused on the importance of sports safety—specifically as it relates to overuse and trauma injuries in children.
The main focus of the STOP Sports Injuries campaign is to curb the number of youth sports injuries that are occurring in our country. We want to keep our young athletes out of the operating room and on the playing field by promoting safe practices in sports. To achieve this goal, the campaign is raising public awareness of youth sports injuries through a major public relations effort aimed at athletes, coaches, healthcare providers, and parents. The campaign includes the following resources:
- Educational tip sheets
- Regular press releases on sports injuries topics
- Quarterly enewsletters
- Posters, stickers, and prescription pads
- Educational safety curriculum for coaches
- Public service announcements (PSAs)
- Social media outreach (Twitter and Facebook—each with nearly 3,000 fans)
- A guidebook for how to host STOP Sports Injuries events
- Presentation library
- Interactive website at www.STOPSportsInjuries.org
The campaign’s PSA also recently won a Silver Communicator Award of Distinction from the International Academy of Visual Arts.
AAOS Now: What prompted development of the STOP campaign?
Dr. Andrews: Our country has experienced a tremendous rise in the sheer number of our youth participating in sports. Statistics show that the United States has 30 to 45 million youth athletes. An epidemic rise of injuries associated with youth sports accompanied the increase in participation. According to “Safe Kids USA,” 3.5 million children ages 14 and younger receive medical treatment for sports injuries. High-school athletes account for another 2 million injuries per year. This makes sports the leading cause of adolescent injury. Along with time away from school and work, these injuries can have far-reaching effects.
We know that 30 percent to 50 percent of all youth sports injuries are due to overuse. Youth are particularly at risk for problems due to factors such as improper technique, ill-fitting equipment, training errors, coach or parental pressure, failure to recognize injuries early, and inherent musculoskeletal imbalance. These problems are magnified in younger athletes who are more vulnerable to injury. The STOP Sports Injuries campaign hopes to protect these young athletes and prevent injuries by being an advocate for safety reforms in sports.
AAOS Now: Why should orthopaedic surgeons become involved in this effort?
Dr. Andrews: The STOP Sports Injuries campaign has more than 300 collaborative partners—organizations, medical practices, and major medical institutions around the world. The “Council of Champions,” individuals who recognize the importance of the campaign and support its goals, include well-known professional athletes such as Sam Bradford, John Smoltz, Jack Nicklaus, Bonnie Blair, Eric Heiden, Hank Aaron, and many more.
Although media outlets and partnerships can give the campaign a national audience, individuals will ultimately make this initiative successful. To make this year the most productive yet, help on a personal level is needed. The agenda for 2012 includes a major focus on research, increased educational content development, and continued local public awareness outreach. Attaining these goals will take a team approach from clinicians across the country who bring the STOP Sports Injuries message to their own local communities.
AAOS Now: How can orthopaedic surgeons participate in the STOP campaign?
Dr. Andrews: Participation is open to anyone with an interest in preventing sports injuries in kids, from local sports medicine practices and medical institutions to recreation leagues and national professional health organizations. Once an organization is approved as a STOP Sports Injuries supporter, it will receive official recognition on the campaign’s website and can add the campaign logo to its own website and materials.
Another way to help is to be involved in local campaign events. More than 200 events have been held across the country, using local supporters to distribute campaign materials and promote the campaign’s message. Some events have been held in collaboration with SAFE Kids USA and NCAA Youth Sports Safety Clinics.
Finally, sponsorship and financial commitment for the campaign is crucial to its success over the long haul. Any support is greatly appreciated and will truly be an investment in our young athletes.
AAOS Now: Do orthopaedic surgeons have to be members of AOSSM to participate?
Dr. Andrews: No—all individuals and organizations are encouraged to become involved in this national education campaign. For more information, visit www.stop sportsinjuries.org or email Michael Konstant, campaign director, at email@example.com
Disclosure information: Dr. Andrews—Biomet Sports Medicine; Biomet; Bauerfiend; Theralase; MiMedx; Physiotherapy Associates; Patient Connection; Connective Orthopaedics; FastHealth Corporation; Physiotherapy Associates