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Leigh Steinberg Headshot

Making High School Sports Safer

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Athletes are attracted to participate in sports at the high school
level because of the bonding, competition and the many invaluable life
lessons that they learn. Unfortunately, an adolescent body is still in
the growing process and subject to a greater risk of injury and
consequences than in college and the pros. My 40 years of work with
professional athletes has made it clear to me how deep and profound athletic
denial about how risks can be. It starts early in life in Pop Warner, AYSO
and Little League. Athletes are taught to ignore pain, be stoic and
not jeopardize their chance to play. Long-term health is an abstract
concern, off the radar. Playing the next play becomes everything. This
is why it is critical for athletes and their parents, coaches and
trainers to make themselves aware of methods of prevention and the
most effective treatment of athletic injury.

Dr. Joseph Horrigan, a world-renowned sports medicine specialist, and
his DISC Sports and Spine Center, are attempting to bring light into
this murky landscape by holding a series of symposiums on the
biomechanics of injuries and their prevention. The first session on
concussions was held last Thursday evening and these presentations
continue every Thursday through May 9 at their clinic in Newport
Beach. Field experts, such as Nike Track and Field
Coach John Smith, Oakland Raiders team physician Dr. Fred Nicola and
pioneering neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Bray Jr, will be part of the
presentations. The series is titled Coaches and Captains, attempting
to change the awareness on High School campuses surrounding injury be
involving coaches and player team leaders. These tend to be the role
models that athletes take their cues from and any change in this
paradigm needs to involve them.

Dr. Horrigan has been a focused for the last 25 years on strength and
condition and sports medicine. He was conditioning coach for the NHL's
Los Angeles Kings and still is club coach for USA Weightlifting. He
trained Jennifer Lawrence for her starring role in The Hunger Games
and consulted on the film Django Unchained. I asked Dr. Horrigan for
his motivation in holding these conferences and he replied "If we help
one girl and one boy on each team, in each school, each year from
having an ACL tear, one less concussion, one less SLAP tear, one less
dehydration case,then we will have achieved something great and
worthwhile."

Topics will include "Concussions," (my personal crusade) "Improving
the 40-Yard Dash," "Shoulder Injuries in Overhead Athletes," "Surprising
Symptoms of Back Injuries," "ACL Injuries in Athletes" and "Preventing
Dehydration." The last topic continues to be a difficulty as the death
of a Grambling St. athlete after running 4.5 miles in the summer heat
of Louisiana -- a wrongful death suit I testified in -- illustrates. Dr.
Horrigan made the point that by the time someone recognizes that they
are thirsty, they are already dehydrated.

The health of high school athletes in all sports is a serious concern
for the schools, the athletes, and their parents. Some of the
consequences not only prevent athletes from continuing to participate
in sports at that level, they can lead to lifelong health problems.

The exciting news is that medical and training techniques to prevent
and treat these athletes are evolving quickly. These seminars have the
potential to raise the level of awareness and push this invaluable
field forward and stimulate a national discussion on these issues.

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