physiquality blog: preventing youth overuse injuries

The company I work for, Physiquality, has made it one of their missions to provide wellness and fitness activities for kids. And this topic has been increasingly popular over the last few years.

That said, this is a personal topic for me. As I mentioned in my last post, my injuries are directly related to the quantity of dance I did as a child and adolescent. My first surgery at 16 was caused by dancing 12 hours a week on a poorly aligned knee. A lack of cross-training and exercise outside of my dancing probably contributed to both my misalignment (dancers have notoriously weird alignments; my knees point straight forward when my feet are turned out in first position) and overuse. By the time the surgeon intervened, my cartilage was already shredded underneath my kneecap. I knew there would be further surgeries down the road.

Would I have followed the advice of these experts? And would it have made a difference? I don’t know. But certainly heeding their advice may have slowed down my problems and perhaps given me more time before my inevitable time under the knife.

Preventing youth overuse injuries

In recent years, a disturbing trend has been seen among younger athletes: Overuse injuries are becoming far more common.

Baseball in particular has been under intense scrutiny. A study of 481 youth pitchers between the ages of 9 and 14, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine (subscription required) in February 2011, noted that 5% of the athletes suffered such a serious injury in the course of the study that they needed surgery, or, even worse, had to retire.

And in an article for the Los Angeles Times in 2008, Dr. E. Lyle Cain noted that at the turn of the millennium, younger athletes (mostly baseball players) were getting the Tommy John procedure, or reconstruction of the ulnar collateral ligament, at a much higher rate. Only about 12% of Tommy John cases were for patients under the age of 18 between 1991 and 1996; the number of cases had jumped to 30% by 2005.

But it’s not just baseball that’s at the root of the problem. Whether due to increased competition, the hope for college scholarships, or overambitious parents, many children and teens are specializing in sports at younger ages and playing much more than previous generations.

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physiquality blog: what happens when we can’t exercise?

One of the reasons my resume stood out when I applied for a job with PTPN years ago was my experience in the healthcare industry. At the time, my work experience was focused on education and media. It was my personal experience in the healthcare world that got me in the door.

As a lifelong dancer (yes, I’m in my 30s and still take dance classes in Manhattan), my knees were doomed from my early teens. By the time I’d applied for the position in California, I’d had two knee surgeries on my right knee, one at 16 and one in the previous year, and had a another surgery while living in Los Angeles. My knowledge of and loyalty to the physical therapy profession was key to taking this job. I am happy to write about the benefits of physical therapy as I’ve seen them first hand — after having to take 4 years off from dancing, I’ve been taking intermediate modern classes for over a year now. I’m well aware that this never would have been possible without the benefits of my rehabilitation and the amazing PTs with whom I worked.

That said, those 4 years were a dark time. Taking time away from your chosen workout or sport — whether for 4 weeks, 4 months or 4 years — is difficult. How do you stay in shape? How do you stay positive? A story in the New York Times on depression after sports injuries inspired me to ask our member PTs about what we can do to avoid that depression and focus instead on rehabilitation and our return to the exercise we love.

What happens when we can’t exercise?

If you exercise regularly, you’ve probably had one of these roadblocks at some point in your life: A sprained ankle that keeps you from running. An illness that keeps you away from the gym. Or a bigger injury that requires rehab or surgery and a rethinking of your entire fitness regime.

When your fitness routine shifts, so does the rest of your day. You may sit more, eat more and possibly gain weight. The lack of endorphins, combined with the changes you see in the mirror, don’t help your situation. It’s not unusual to get depressed when this happens.

So how can you try to take control of your body and continue to stay fit despite that injury or illness? Mitch Kaye, PT, recommends that if you have an injury, the first stop is to see your doctor or a healthcare professional. He warns against self-diagnosis and adds that your physical therapist is the ideal expert to recommend low-impact exercises that can be continued with an injury; a PT’s unique training, along with knowledge of how the injury occurred, is key to prescribing the best recovery exercises.

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physiquality blog: timeless lessons on living a healthy life

Jack LaLanne’s death in January of this year made me think about my own grandfather. He’s often been mistaken for my father as few people believe he looks too young to be anything else. While I’m sure his amazingly dark hair is part of that (he’s 81 but has only recently started to go salt and pepper), his depth of fitness is also part of the cause.

Grandpa always followed Jack LaLanne’s model of eating right and staying fit. Even in his 70s, he was riding his bike for 10 miles or more at a time, and he was eating egg-white omelettes long before they were popular. The basement at my grandparents’ house contained an impressive home gym, mostly made of hand weights that were far too heavy for me to pick up, even when I’d grown into a young adult. The two men have always been linked in my mind, which was why I suggested writing a tribute to Mr. LaLanne after his passing.

Timeless lessons on living a healthy life

Jack LaLanne had what seemed like a simple mission in life — to help people help themselves through feeling better and living longer. In his own life, before passing away recently at age 96, he tried to live by example through “completing implausible feats of strength and endurance,” as James Fell of the Los Angeles Times put it. Even more improbably, Jack did many of these things at the age of 40 and beyond. To name a few:

  • 1955, 40 years old: Swam the length of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge underwater with 140 pounds of equipment.
  • 1956, 42 years old: Set a world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes on the TV show “You Asked for It.”
  • 1959, 45 years old: Completed 1,000 push-ups and 1,000 chin-ups in 1 hour and 22 minutes.
  • 1975, 61 years old: Swam the length of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge underwater, for a second time, this time handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1,000-pound boat.
  • 1984, 70 years old: Towed 70 boats with 70 people from the Queen’s Way Bridge in Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary, a 1½ mile distance, while handcuffed, shackled, and fighting strong winds and currents.

Even more impressive is his list of firsts: He opened the first modern health spa. He was the first fitness trainer to have athletes, and women, working out with weights. The first to combine weight training with nutrition. The first to encourage the physically challenged to exercise. The list goes on and on.

Because Jack was first in the public eye in the 1950s, many people today question what they can learn from him. Many of his LaLanneisms, however, are even more important to follow today, with obesity at an all-time high and the need for fitness and good nutrition vital to our health. Here are just a few to keep in mind:

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physiquality blog: safe shoveling tips

One of the companies I’ve been working for, Physiquality, has asked me to start writing blog content for their website. It makes sense — add more content to the site, improving search results, and create something to post in social media (in this case, Facebook) to drive traffic to the site.

Our first entry came about during the massive set of storms we had this winter, across the country. Since the company’s focus is on health and wellness, we interviewed a member physical therapist about how to shovel snow safely without throwing out one’s back.

Safe shoveling tips

Winter’s wrath has been especially harsh this season — at one point, the only state in the continental U.S. that didn’t have snow was Florida. Many people that may be used to snow have been overwhelmed by the amount they’ve had to shovel, and many others have had to adapt to snow removal that have never had to do it before.

The snow this year has been particularly difficult to remove because it’s been wet and dense, making each shovel-full heavier than usual. Lifting these heavier piles of snow, and the frequency of the snowstorms this year, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, means more people are open to injury from improper form and technique.

To help us get through the last storms of the winter, we turned to PTPN member Ann Duffy, PT, M.A., owner of Duffy and Bracken, a physical therapy clinic in Manhattan. She gave us several tips on how to shovel snow and avoid injury.

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