"My son has suffered a concussion," says parent Michael King. "2 tears to his knees as well as a growth plate issue."
Last year's injuries don't keep #63 Logan Mierop from playing football for the White House Heritage Patriots, a team known for its intensity on the field.
"Today's student athlete - they emulate college and professional athletes moreso," says King. "I think that contributes to their level of play."
Home video shows a tackle Mierop made during a game. It's no surprise high-impact sports can cause lifelong and life threatening damage.
"Bigger, faster stronger athletes is gonna result in higher energy injuries," says Summit Medical Center Dr. Michael LaDouceur.
That's exactly what doctors are seeing. Injuries are becoming more severe, and even more common at younger ages.
"What we do see is kids tend to specialize or pick a sport younger in life," says Dr. LaDouceur. "They also have a tendency then to train year-round in that particular sport."
Overuse injuries in the ligaments like ACL tears and shoulder dislocations are a common injury. More kids are requiring physical therapy when their bodies don't have time to rest between seasons.
"Where there used to be, a decade ago, there was a distinct break in time," says Summit Medical Center PT Kim McPhail. "Now the kids are going all year round and doing multiple sports but never really have any down time."
Because of a disparity in the sizes of kids at younger ages, there are more clavical, wrist and forearm fractures in their growing bones.
"You can have a 5th grader, for instance, who's very small, may weigh 60lbs., and one of his co-classmates could be 5'9", 200lbs.," says Dr. LaDouceur. "So when you have a collision between sizes like that, bad things can happen."
From the NFL down, there's a growing concern for the techniques little leaguers are being taught.
"I do believe, and it's my personal opinion," says former NFL Player Kevin Mawae. "That kids playing football in full pads at the age of 5 is ridiculous."
Mawae coaches high school football at Montgomery Bell Academy after 16 years as an NFL player, most recently for the Titans. He believes kids wanting to play the game need years of flag football before dressing in pads to learn the technique of the game first.
"I think kids, 1, they haven't developed the motor skills they need to be an athlete," says Mawae. "And 2, they don't understand the rules enough to just go out there and play."
Mawae, as the President of the NFL Players Association, knows all too well the long-term damage these pint-size players could be setting themselves up for. Aside from hurting bones and muscles, researchers are finding out more about the life-threatening effects of head injuries, most recently speculated to be the cause of death among some professional hockey players and football players.
"The closed head trauma issue is huge," says Dr. LaDouceur. "Especially in younger kids."
"Studies have shown it's not one or 2 major impact concussions that have caused long-term issues," says Mawae. "It's the multiple traumatic brain injuries, the little ones that you don't consider concussions that build up over time."
Over time, Mawae has had his fair share. He says the NFL is taking studies of chronic traumatic encephalopathy seriously. It's a motor neuron disease found in athletes, where dementia develops years after repeated head injuries. That's why kids growing bigger, faster and stronger is becoming a game changer.
"You have to be very careful," says Mawae. "You want to win games but you don't want to win them at all costs."
"As a parent, you never want to think about that obviously," says King. "But the reality of that is, from a healthcare perspective, in the back of your mind, you know that that is a significant possibility."
One of the most serious consequences of sports is the possibility of concussions. As Eric Alvarez found out, sports is changing in a way to make it safer for athletes.
Thursday, November 3 2011, 07:43 PM CDT
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