Yesterday, I had the honor of being a guest at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Micheli Center For Sports Injury Prevention, which is being built next to Children's Hospital Boston's Waltham, Massachusetts facility.
There isn't a person working in the field of youth sports injuries who does not immediately recognize the name Lyle Micheli, MD. He founded the first youth sports injury clinic at Children's Hospital in 1974. Dr. Micheli was also one of the first, if not the first, doctor to sound the alarm bells about overuse injuries. He has seen first hand how year-round sports and early specialization have taken their toll on the bodies of our kids, and has worked tirelessly over the years to make youth sports safer. It is not a stretch to say that Lyle is one of the truly great sports medicine doctors of this or any generation.
Kicking off the event was MomsTEAM expert William Meehan, MD, Director of the Sports Concussion Clinic in the Division of Sports Medicine at Children's Hospital Boston, and the Director of the new Micheli Center. Bill spoke about the need to prevent injuries in kids sports and the role of the Micheli Center will play in that mission, one which MomsTEAM has shared from its inception.
Speaking of sharing, Dr. Micheli told us a wonderful story about his mother, who used to collect coal on the train tracks as a young woman and carry them in a large basket on top of her head. She was a soccer player, but managed to avoid the ACL injury problems that have reached epidemic levels among the young female soccer players of today.
Lyle believes that the reason the number of sports injuries is so high today is that our children do not have the opportunity to build up their muscles the correct way as kids once did while working on family farms, doing chores around the home, walking or riding their bikes to school, and in unstructured play in the neighborhood.
He also believes that, to avoid crippling ACL injuries, our sports-active daughters need to begin strength and conditioning training earlier (at the ages of 8, 9 or 10), even earlier than recently recommended by the authors of a new study on the benefits of neurmuscular training (NMT) for female athletes, who suggest that the best time to begin NMT may be in their mid-teens.
Micheli declared that the new center named in his honor will be, as the name states, all about preventing injuries, and he told us that it will do in three important ways:
- By providing access to young athletes so they can train correctly to prevent injuries (look for three new gymnasiums and training rooms when construction is complete in 2013);
- By developing a customized, individual profile for each young athlete to determine what they need to strengthen in order to avoid sports injuries; and
- Through cutting-edge injury prevention research, an area in which we do not have enough good data.
In addition to Drs. Micheli and Meehan, we also heard from special guest speaker, former New England Patriot, three-time Super Bowl winner and cancer survivor, Joe Andruzzi. He spoke about the importance of taking the rehabilitation process after injury slowly under the guidance of experts who are able to help determine the best way to structure rehab so that an injured athlete ramps up weight training gradually in order to rebuild muscles to stabilize joints. Joe's story about how he used a positive attitude and a sense of humor to beat cancer is truly inspirational.
Inspiring, too, is the work of people like Lyle Micheli and Bill Meehan in making youth sports safer. It was such an honor to be invited to the event.