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Photo by Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News
Really disturbing story in the latest issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics – seems the number of ER visits by young athletes with concussions has gone through the roof. And experts are theorizing that it’s not just because parents and coaches are more aware of the dangers of head injuries, but because the intensity and aggression in competitive youth sports has soared too.

Emergency room visits for 14- to 19-year-olds with concussions has tripled in the last decade — from 7,000 in 1997, to 22,000 in 2007. And younger kids, ages 8-13, went from 3,800 to 8,000.

And that awareness stuff is troubling too. Yes, parents, coaches and players are more aware of concussions – but, say the study’s authors, their concerns seem to center around how soon the kids can get back on the field, rather than the long-term impact of having one’s brain matter sloshed against the sides of the skull.

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Posted on Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
Under: Health & Safety, Sports | 1 Comment »

BACKYARD FUN: Kids & Fishing

Kids & Fishing (Photo by Bonnie Trafelet/Chicago Tribune) Those lazy days of summer are upon us at last! Now it’s time to find stuff to do. Back when we first began this backyard fun discussion, both Carol and Julie K. posted musings on the joys of fishing. Julie says that when she finally manages to kick her kids off the video games, they usually head for the park to fish and find wildlife. And lucky Carol lives in a neighborhood with a lake. If you don’t have a fishing pond in your backyard, fret not. There are plenty of places to take your kids and tackle box here in the Bay Area. Start with these five ideas…

1. If you’re not a fisherman yourself, the easiest way to start is at a Fishing Clinic. These free, 45-minute clinics are sponsored by California’s Fish & Game Department, and they feature learning stations on everything from safety and knots to casting and ecological lessons too. The clinics are designed for families with kids 5 and up. All equipment is supplied. And the next one is this Saturday, June 20 from 8 a.m. to noon at Newark’s Lakeshore Park. Get there early! The last clinic starts at 10 a.m., although once you’re in, you can fish till noon.
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Posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009
Under: Backyard fun, Sports | No Comments »

Live chat, noon Friday: Our obsession with youth sports

Whether they admit it or not, I suspect most fathers of Little Leaguers live vicariously through their children. Am I projecting? Perhaps. I’ve always told myself it’s OK so long as the kid isn’t aware of the old man’s vicarious thrills. Am I rationalizing? Perhaps.

Maybe I’ll get some answers tomorrow: Join us for a live chat at noon Friday with sports reporter Carl Steward.

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Posted on Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
Under: Dads, Parenting Issues, Sports | No Comments »

Got a Young Athlete? Read This.

Courtesy Sports Illustrated Magazine There’s a fantastic, deeply disturbing article by Mark Hyman, author of “Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids,” in this week’s Sports Illustrated Magazine, which hit newstands this morning. A disturbing and escalating number of youth sports injuries, says Hyman, are caused by athletics-obsessed parents who push their children too hard, causing chronic overuse injuries that can impact not just their children’s prowess on the court and in the field, but their growth plates and physical development.

How bad is it? Hyman says Lyle Micheli, a Children’s Hospital Boston doctor and co-founder of the nation’s first youth sports medicine clinic 35 years ago, no longer makes small talk with the thousands of Little Leaguers, future Olympians and everyday young athletes he meets each year. He just asks them where it hurts. Back in the early days of his Boston clinic, sports injuries stemmed from gridiron pileups or ill-advised slides into second base. Even as recently as the 1990s, only 20% of young athletes’ injuries stemmed from repetitive stress and chronic over-use. Now, it’s 75%.

“They’ve trained—and overtrained—in their sports,” writes Hyman, “until their bodies just can’t take it anymore.”
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Posted on Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
Under: Health & Safety, Sports | No Comments »

What would you do if Michael Phelps were your son?

If Michael Phelps were a teenager and your son, what would you do if you caught him smoking pot? New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey says USA Swimming made the wrong call.
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Posted on Friday, February 6th, 2009
Under: Kids & Tweens, Sports | No Comments »

CHINESE GYMNASTS ruled of age — go ahead, scoff

Underage Chinese
Forget that they look as if they’re 10 years old. Ignore all those “misleading and erroneous” records posted online that listed the ages of some Chinese gymnasts as 14 years old. Pretend its possible for an athlete to state one year that she’s 13 and the next that she’s suddenly 16 — she just misspoke that first time around.

The international gymnastics federation says everything is peachy regarding the ages of the Chinese gymnasts who competed and won gold at the Beijing Olympics in August. Federation officials have checked passports and other documents, verifying the gymnasts were all the legal age of 16. (Of course, the Chinese government produced said documents — and yes, I’m alleging that the government was a party to duplicity.) Case closed on the 2008 team, but hey, at least the federation is still investigating the suspect ages of two Chinese gymnasts from the 2000 Olympics. Due diligence, right?

As a former Olympics beat writer, I’ve had a lot of people ask why age-gate matters. Who cares if the gymnasts are 14 or 16? The international age limit is a “ridiculous” policy in the first place, they say. Except, it’s not. That rule is the only thing keeping the highly exploitive sport of gymnastics in check.

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Posted on Wednesday, October 1st, 2008
Under: Sports | No Comments »

FAB FIVE: Keeping Young Athletes Healthy

College Basketball, Tennessee vs Stanford 2008 (MCT Direct)
Baseball season’s winding down – or rather sliding full speed into championships – and rec swimming, water polo and summer sports camps are revving up, and those achy knees, slipping shoulders and jammed fingers just keep going, don’t they? So, here’s a Fab Five list to help keep young athletes healthy and injury-free, with a little help from St. Louis University’s director of athletic training education Tony Breitbach:

1. Doublecheck the equipment. Kids grow fast, so gear that fit perfectly last year may be too small now. “Ill-fitting shoes can be an especially big problem,” says Breitbach. “Last summer’s baseball cleats will likely not be right for this summer.” And protective equipment – cups, helmets, shin guards – must fit properly to protect.

2. Watch the diet – low fat, lean protein and complex carbohydrates – and hydration. Athletes need lots of complex carbs – what Breitbach calls “high-energy foods” – right before and after a game or workout. And water, water, water. “People place way too much emphasis on energy and sports drinks,” he says, “hen good cool water will do just fine. Don’t give him a bottle of water for a long game. A jug would be better.”
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Posted on Friday, May 23rd, 2008
Under: Fab Five, Health & Safety, Sports | No Comments »

ATHLETIC Championships vs. AP Exams

SwimmersThere’s been a lively discussion going on all week over California High’s dugout fiasco. Now here’s another question for you. Do you see conflicts between your high school’s academic philosophy and its athletic practices? Have you had coaches tell your kids their priorities  should be: 1) swimming (baseball, soccer, etc.), 2) sleep and 3) academics, in that order?

Do the North Coast Section and league championship trials and finals conflict with AP exams at your kids’ high school? I’m not talking “conflict” as in “cuts into studying time,” although that’s certainly a concern.  I mean, games and meets that start during the exam. Senior year, our oldest son had to choose between swimming in the DFAL league trials, which began at 2:15 p.m., and taking a German AP exam that ran from 12:30 to well after 4 p.m.

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Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2008
Under: Sports | 3 Comments »

TEMPEST in a San Ramon Dugout

baseball There’s a tempest brewing in California High’s baseball dugout, after a San Ramon Valley family accused coaches of giving members of their year-round, non-school team prized JV and varsity positions that left other players out in the cold. In essence, coaches were playing favorites, the family charged, with players who’d paid to play.

Frankly, it’s a common complaint, particularly in prosperous suburban areas where kids play high-octane, year-round ball, and their parents routinely hire private pitching/batting/whatever mentors to help their kids excel. In this case, school officials investigated and found no evidence of preferential treatment, but one of the coaches was removed halfway through the season, so commence with the dot-connecting.

Having had four kids play nearly every kind of aquatic and field sport for the last decade and a half, we’ve heard similar charges lobbed every time someone’s kid gets cut from a varsity team or doesn’t get as much playing time as mom or dad expects — and we have to say, this is a complicated issue.
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Posted on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008
Under: Sports | 50 Comments »

BEST. Game. Ever.

We’re unabashed fans of Improv Everywhere, the wild and crazy guys who stage improv events in public places – synchronized swimming championships in a city fountain, a grand freeze in Grand Central Station, and a musical in a food court in front of surprised, mystified but ultimately delighted spectators. This time, it’s a very memorable Little League game. In fact, it’s the Best. Game. Ever.

Posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2008
Under: Sports | No Comments »