Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Young Athletes Academy tackles youth sports injuries

Orthopedic surgeon Charles Chan, MD, treats athletes like 17-year-old Sean Oliver of Mountain View through the new Young Athletes Academy at Stanford Children’s Health.


Young athletes are highly prone to injuries, accounting for more half of the 7 million sports- and recreation-related injuries each year in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Every 25 seconds an athlete between the ages of 5 and 24 visits the emergency room for a severe sports injury, Safe Kids Worldwide reports.

“We’ve seen a three-fold increase in the number of youths participating in organized sports since 1995,” said Charles Chan, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. “That’s 44 million children a year. In an effort to achieve success, which unfortunately is measured by winning, we’ve lost sight of overall health and well-being.”

That’s why the new Children’s Orthopedic Center and Sports Medicine Program at Stanford Children’s Health developed a Young Athletes Academy, which launched in January. The academy’s team of physicians, physical therapists and athletic trainers visits area high schools to work directly with students and coaches in injury prevention and treatment.

“We aren’t just visiting schools and conducting pre-season physicals,” Chan explained. “We’re there to educate athletes and to develop treatment plans with school trainers and coaches. The goal is try to prevent sports injuries altogether.”

Focus on prevention

Scott Larson, executive administrative director of the program, said the outreach includes teaching young athletes how to properly stretch, warm up, run and jump. “We’re being proactive,” said Larson, “and providing learning objectives that hopefully will last throughout a young person’s athletic career.”

A prime focus of the academy is to prevent youths from sustaining anterior cruciate ligament tears, one of the most common knee injuries in sports — and one showing an alarming rise among young girls. The team hopes to reduce the rate of ACL injuries — which can bring an athlete’s season to an abrupt end — by identifying risk factors early and implementing a therapy plan using motion analysis to improve joint alignment, as well as biomechanics. In addition, the academy offers screenings for overtraining and burnout, consultations on nutrition and the female athlete triad (three distinct and interrelated conditions), and comprehensive concussion management.

“We think Stanford’s approach with the Young Athletes Academy will be very beneficial for schools,” said Matt Smith, athletic trainer at Burlingame High School. “Injury reduction, improved conditioning, skill acquisition and overall better health are important to our kids, and we appreciate what this new program offers. We look forward to working with them.”

Specialized studies

Stanford Children’s Health also will launch the Pediatric Motion and Sports Performance Lab in May. Located at the new Stanford Children’s Health Specialty Services-Sunnyvale location, the new, 6,000-square-foot center will enable researchers to study and better understand the science of movement in young people.

“There’s a lot of research in the area of sports performance and athletics, but most of it focuses on mature athletes,” said Chan, a clinical professor of orthopedics at Stanford University School of Medicine. “Stanford physicians, scientists and care teams would like to change that by focusing on the growing athlete.

“For a long time, we treated injuries to children as if they were small adults,” he added. “Now, we’re much more specialized and armed with innovative surgical techniques for reconstruction. With the new Performance Lab opening soon, we also will be able to use the latest motion analysis to determine when it’s safe to clear a growing athlete back to his or her sport.”

Focusing on the young athlete is just another aspect of the comprehensive care provided by the Stanford Children’s Health Orthopedic Center, where physicians treat broken bones, concussions, scoliosis and spinal disorders, among other conditions. The team, with six locations in the Bay Area, also offers programs for hip preservation, hand and microsurgery, bone and soft tissue tumors, and limb deformity. The group includes 11 physicians and a large staff of pediatric orthopedic nurses and nurse practitioners, athletic trainers, rehabilitation experts, physical therapists, biomedical engineers and prosthetists.

“With the Young Athletes Academy and the Motion and Sports Performance Lab, we’re ensuring that the latest orthopedic research and care from Stanford will be more available and accessible than ever,” Larson said. “Young athletes are excited about what this will mean to their performance, injury prevention and safe return to play — now and in the future.”

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