Research Advances in High School and Collegiate Sports Medicine Focus of National Conference

Monday, July 25, 2005

CINCINNATI - Every year more than 3 million children, teens and college athletes are injured playing sports. Sports injuries cost the medical industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Many injuries can be prevented with proper training and research.

On Friday, July 22 through Sunday, July 24, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center will co-host a High School and Collegiate Sports Medicine Conference that will feature some of the countries foremost experts in sports medicine. The conference is co-hosted by NovaCare Rehabilitation and the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.

While sports injuries in children, teens and young adults are on the rise, new research by renown sports medicine specialists provides new insights into how to effectively treat and prevent some of the most common and serious injuries in young athletes. The conference will highlight some of the most advanced research findings in the field, according to Jon Divine, MD, medical director of the Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center at Cincinnati Children's.

Concussion Injuries Soar in the Fall

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 300,000 sports-related concussions occur in the United States each year.

The Emergency Department at Cincinnati Children's sees a sharp rise in the number of high school athletes with concussions in August, with the start of football practice, and then in September when the games begin. Last fall, Cincinnati Children's opened a concussion clinic especially designed to treat student athletes.

Concussions are a very common sports injury; second only to sprained ankles. They are not usually life threatening, but the effects can still be serious, said Dr. Divine, who on Saturday will talk about the identification and treatment of concussions on the field.

Screening for Cardiovascular Abnormalities in Athletes

This is what we call the needle in the haystack, said Dr. Divine in speaking about potentially identifying the cause for athletes who suddenly die as a result of problems with the heart. About one out of 100,000 athletes, or 10-25 nationwide, collapse unexpectedly from a sudden heart attack each year. Researchers at Cincinnati Children's continue to study this rare but devastating phenomenon.

On Saturday, Dr. Divine will discuss potential causes of sudden cardiac death in athletes such as myocardial infarction, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart muscle that impedes blood flow from the heart and can lead to an abnormal heart beat. His talk will specifically address:

  • How an enlarged heart affects athletes
  • Risk changes as a young athlete ages
  • Chest pain that needs medical attention
  • Screening problematic cases

Dr. Divines talk will address focus on controversial heart-related issues for athletes, including whether an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) should be required as part of health assessments for high school and college athletes and whether schools should be required to have access to a portable defibrillator during all athletic events.

Preventing ACL Injuries in Young Athletes

Female athletes, particularly soccer and basketball players, are five times more likely to tear an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than male athletes. Commonly known as ACL injuries, leading researchers in the field, such as Cincinnati Children's Timothy Hewett, PhD, director of the Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center at Cincinnati Children's, have studied these injuries for years.

The ACL is one of four knee ligaments that connect the upper leg bone (femur) with lower leg bone (tibia). It is designed to stabilize knee movement. In a talk scheduled for Saturday, Dr. Hewett will present preliminary research findings that focus on female athletes at risk of an ACL injury. Dr. Hewett's research is funded with a $3 million grant from the NIH.

"Adolescent females who participate in jumping and pivoting sports suffer ACL injury at a four- to six-fold greater rate than adolescent males participating in the same sports. This study should increase our ability to direct high-risk athletes to effective, targeted interventions to prevent these injuries from occurring," Dr. Hewitt said.

Dr. Hewett's work explores the idea that female athletes become more susceptible to ACL injury during puberty, when increases occur in both the length of bones in the leg and body mass. At the same time, his previous studies show, women do not experience the spurt in neuromuscular performance that male athletes do.

"A reduction of female ACL injury rates from five times that of males to equal that of males would allow more than 30,000 female athletes each year to benefit from participation in sports and to avoid long-term consequences of osteoarthritis, which may occur with a 10-fold greater incidence in athletes with ACL injuries," Dr. Hewett said.

Other Top Experts Speaking at the Conference

  1. Kevin Wilk, MPT, who is the rehabilitation consultant for the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Devil Rays. He is the national director of Research and Clinical Education for HealthSouth Rehabilitation Corporation in Birmingham, Alabama, among other holding other titles. Mr. Wilk has published more than 85 journal articles, 50 book chapters and has lectured at more than 250 professional and scientific meetings.
  2. Chris Kaeding, MD, team physician for Ohio State University.
  3. Kurt Spindler, MD, professor and vice chairman of the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical School; director of the Vanderbilt Sports Medicine Center and the Orthopaedic Patient Care Center and head team physician for Vanderbilt University.

The Sports Medicine Biodynamics Center offers young athletes a state-of-the-art resource for sports injury care, sports injury prevention, performance training, research and education. No other place in the region offers a full spectrum of care to support the young athlete. The Center brings together sports medicine researchers, physicians, radiologists, sports physical therapists and a human performance lab to help young athletes be the safest and best they can be.

Cincinnati Children's is a 423-bed institution devoted to bringing the world the joy of healthier kids. Cincinnati Children's is dedicated to transforming the way health care is delivered by providing care that is timely, efficient, effective, family-centered, equitable and safe. It ranks third nationally among all pediatric centers in research grants from the National Institutes of Health. The Cincinnati Children's vision is to be the leader in improving child health.

Contact Information

Press contact: Amy Caruso,, 513-636-5637