First lacrosse sports medicine conference coming to Baltimore

March 04, 2011|Mike Preston

mike.preston@baltsun.com — Lacrosse is one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and to keep pace, US Lacrosse, the sports' national governing body, will hold a conference next week in Baltimore, the first of its kind specifically designed for lacrosse sports medicine.

The conference, co-sponsored by MedStar Sports Health/Union Memorial Sports Medicine, will take place next Friday (7:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m ) at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

The conference isn't just about injuries and prevention; it covers a full gamut of topics, including optimizing the experience of youth lacrosse, basic concepts and priorities, why the women's game is unique, the rapid growth of the game, playing surfaces and hydration and nutrition.

"The idea for this conference is something that has been brewing for a number of years given the development of the literature around injuries and health issues in lacrosse," said Dr. Andrew Lincoln, from Union Memorial."In the past, we have really fostered a lot of information and we wanted to share that information in some form."

It was time.

Unlike previous decades when lacrosse was played in only certain pockets of the country, the sport is played on every coast. Even colleges and universities that don't have NCAA-sanctioned teams are starting club teams, especially in the Midwest.

Top lacrosse officials want to maintain the tradition while at the same time continue the steady growth, but allow that to happen in a healthy way.

Parents should attend this conference, as the section on youth lacrosse is intriguing. We've all seen the situation before where a kid plays lacrosse year-round and attends every summer camp imaginable.

It's lacrosse, lacrosse, lacrosse. Well, it's wrong, wrong, wrong.

"Kids need a break from activity, a break from lacrosse, a sense of holiday from their primary sport," said Dr. Richard Hinton, from Union Memorial. "I would tell the same thing to a baseball or soccer player. Kids need to take two to three months away, and that there is no data to support that the collegiate-playing lacrosse, football or baseball player wasn't a multi-sport athlete in high school."

But kids don't know any better, and some of the parents are downright obsessed about a possible scholarship.

"There is a cottage industry growing up all around these sports that says you have to go through x, y, or z or to this camp or that camp to be successful, and it is making parents become more vulnerable," said Hinton.

Some of the local college and high school coaches might want to attend this conference as well. A lot of big-time high school lacrosse programs are herding these players straight from the fall sports arenas into conditioning without allowing a sufficient break.

Some of the colleges have gotten out of control with the fall conditioning. According to Hinton and Lincoln, their studies indicate that sprained ankles are the most common injury in both men's and women's lacrosse, and ligament injuries in the knee area cause the most missed practice and game time.

I keep hearing more and more about shin splints and stress fractures.

"You have a lot of players going from winter to outdoor spring sports, so for a lot of them there is drastic increase in the amount of running they're doing, from the winter to first part of spring practice," said Hinton.

"The other problem is that fall practice [colleges] starts so early and a lot running is done inside the gymnasium or in an indoor facility, so switching surfaces from indoor running to outdoor running with a very high volume might cause more frequent leg problems."

Suggestions?

"You have a graduated running program over the winter with not a huge escalation during the first two weeks of spring practice," he said. "That's probably the biggest thing, and paying attention to the early warning signs of pains in the leg. Just like almost everything else in life, the running has to be done in moderation. "

There should be some interesting dialogue during the conference on whether women might one day wear helmets. They most certainly won't be like the men's, but it will happen because the injuries will mount and so will the lawsuits.

"We have been working aggressively for head, face and eye protection for the womens' game," said Hinton. "The knee-jerk response, and a lot of people have it, is to put the girls in men's helmets and let them play. From all the data we have, from the NCAA's and scholastically, to put them in helmets and let them morph toward the men's game would create a significantly higher injury burden for the women."

Of course, there will be a lot of talk about concussions. US Lacrosse has been studying the effect, cause and possible prevention of concussions for more than a decade, but it didn't become a hot item until the NFL starting focusing on the problem.

"It's nothing new, but concussions have reached the boiling point as far as public perception," said Lincoln.

It's all interesting stuff, enough to fill the appetite of any lacrosse junkie. Besides bringing in doctors, authors and psychologists as speakers, US Lacrosse is expecting a multidisciplinary audience, including team physicians, orthopedic surgeons, primary care specialists, athletic trainers, physical therapists, injury epidemiologists and lacrosse administrators and coaches.

"This is just a good way for US Lacrosse to be proactive in getting out in front of a sport that continues to grow" said Lincoln.

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