Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Don't take my word for it

James Andrews is tired.

The most famous orthopedic surgeon in the world, whose handiwork has rebuilt athletic careers and enabled professionals to earn hundreds of millions of dollars post-surgery, doesn't want to fix any more elbows, shoulders or knees.

So he's urging parents and coaches to use their brains and stop pushing young bodies beyond their limits in his new book, "Any Given Monday: Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them, for Athletes, Parents and Coaches -- Based on My Life in Sports Medicine."

In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Tuesday, Andrews said the best way to help a young athletes' career is to give them time off:

PD: The best advice you would give parents of a young athlete?

J.A.: The first thing I would tell them is, their kid needs at least two months off each year to recover from a specific sport. Preferably, three to four months. Example: youth baseball. For at least two months, preferably three to four months, they don't need to do any kind of overhead throwing, any kind of overhead sport, and let the body recover in order to avoid overuse situations. That's why we're seeing so many Tommy John procedures, which is an adult operation designed for professionals. In my practice now, 30 to 40 percent of the ones I'm doing are on high-schoolers, even down to ages 12 or 13. They're already coming in with torn ligaments.

Kudos to Dr. Andrews for being proactive when it comes to health and injury prevention. For years, I've been telling my baseball players to make something other than baseball their priority for 3-4 months of the year. Young athletes should play other sports, and more advanced athletes should make getting stronger and more mobile their number one priority.

Becoming a stronger, faster athlete improves their ability to play the game at any level, and whatever sport-specific skill they lose during their time away will come back twofold (or more) within a couple of weeks. I've seen pitchers gain 5 mph on their fastball in a few short months when they stop throwing so much and start getting stronger and more flexible. It goes against popular thinking, especially here in the south, where fall teams play into December, but it pays off in ways that throwing programs and extra rounds in the cage can't.

Try shifting gears for a few months this offseason. You won't be disappointed.

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