Playing for the Charles H. Flowers girls summer league basketball team, Diamond Douglas tried to avoid a collision with one of her teammates. Instead, Douglas fell on top of her and limped off the court when she stood up. She went to the bench and wanted to re-enter, but assistant coach Makia Staves told her to stay put. It could be serious. Staves was right.
Douglas had a torn anterior cruciate ligament, putting her on the sideline for at least six months.
“In the end, everything will be OK,” Douglas said. “I'll be back on the court as soon as everything is good.”
According to a 2008 study by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, around 150,000 ACL injuries occur nationwide per year. Girls are two to eight times more likely to suffer the injury.
Dr. Paul Davis of KURE Pain Management said the injuries are the result of repeated trauma to the same joints.
If an athlete specializes in one sport, playing it all year round and only putting pressure on a certain group of muscles, they are more likely to have an injury.
Playing multiple sports helps avoid such injuries, Davis said.
“It means you're going to develop different physical and mental skill sets, and you're avoiding repetitive trauma,” he said.
Davis centers his studies around joint and spine damage.
He said he rarely sees children younger than 12 come in the for treatment, but after 13 they can start having serious injuries. He said the sports vary, but the two most common in his office are wrestling and football.
“I think some of it is genetics, that can cause a tendency towards some of the problem they have,” Davis said. “Then of course whatever sport they're doing. Some of it is repetitive trauma.”
When looking at athletes younger than 18, more than 5 million suffer sports-related injuries every year and about half of these cases are from overuse, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Around 3.5 million children younger than 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year, according the Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention website, which was started by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Children ages 5 to 14 suffer nearly 40 percent of sports-related injuries treated in hospitals.
For baseball and softball players, the amount of serious shoulder and elbow injuries in young athletes has increased fivefold.
Dr. James Kunec of Orthopedic Solutions LLP in Laurel said the majority of cases he sees are for pulled muscles, sprained ankles and, more recently, for arthritis as athletes he was treating 30 years ago return for treatment.
He has noticed an increase in more serious injuries and said it's because players don't look like they did in the past.
“The players are bigger these days than they were 30, 40 years ago when I was in high school and college,” he said. “And I think with bigger players, there's sometimes more force absorbed when these guys hit each other, so I think torn ACLs have become more prevalent.”
Kunec said varying sports isn't essential, but is most important for baseball pitchers.
Still, Kunec said many prevention methods for injuries haven't changed.
“I think some of the things we learned in high school are still valid: stretching, good warmup techniques, and then in the summer, hydration,” Kunec said.
When Douglas was 10, she started playing basketball, and has done so year-round since eighth grade.
It's her only sport and she doesn't plan on missing out on any games. In early July, she accompanied her AAU team, Team Takeover, to Florida for the AAU Super Showcase.
She isn't planning on letting this setback put her behind.
“As long as I learn from other people's mistakes, and just learn the game, when I come back I'll be prepared,” she said.