By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TVBy Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) — Many young athletes are pushing themselves harder than ever before. And that can mean serious injuries.

“It was like an automatic, really sharp pain in the lower left side of my back. And then after that I felt really stiff and it was like hard for me to even walk,” says Stephanie Vigliotti.

The high school basketball player was shocked when that sharp pain turned out to be a broken bone in her lower back.

“We were devastated. There were a lot of tears,” says Stephanie’s mom, Patrice.

Stephanie’s doctor, Dr. Thomas Sisk, says teen athletes with injured backs now make up 10-15-percent of his patients.

“Red flags for me should be severe pain. I think that’s one thing that you really absolutely have to bring a child in for,” says Dr. Sisk. It’s also worth calling the doctor if the pain is steadily progressing.

A new study from Loyola University found that back injuries are now the third most common injury for athletes under 18 just after knee and ankle injuries. Physical Therapist Ben Read says, “any sport where you have contact or you are having to go into extreme end range positions, like twisting and bending, that’s going to lend itself to a higher susceptibility to injury.”

To prevent these injuries the Loyola report recommends limiting the amount of time kids spend playing sports by using their age: numbers of years equals numbers of hours on the field or court every week. Also, try not to specialize in one sport before late adolescence. Take at least one day per week off from sports training. And take a break from competition one to three months every year not necessarily all together.

Stephanie knows she has to take it easy to prevent another back injury.

“I’m definitely more cautious now. Before I used to dive after every loose ball and everything, and now my mom’s always saying ‘be careful, don’t dive for the ball. you don’t want to hurt yourself again.’ So I’m definitely more aware of what I do.”

The question still remains whether these kids will have lasting back problems into adulthood. That’s one more reason why it’s important to get treated early and take a back injury seriously.




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