group getting their fantasy football draftFor anyone who is an avid sports fan, this is a great time of year. The baseball pennant races are full-bore, the college football season has kicked off and the 94th season of the National Football League (NFL) begins on Thursday night, September 5, 2013. Six months later, on February 2, 2014, the NFL season will end with the crowning of a champion team of Super Bowl XLVIII.

Between now and February, a curious addiction will befall many otherwise sane men and women who enjoy following professional football. They will be consumed with the stats of players who most likely don’t even play for their favorite teams. They will spend many hours studying obscure facts such as how well a given running back performs on artificial turf versus real grass. They will struggle to juggle all-star lineups to best take advantage of a scoring system that approaches the complexity of the U.S. Tax Code.

Unlike the treatment delivered by the specialists at Texas Back Institute to patients with back pain, herniated discs or other back problems, there is really no cure for this football sickness. These lost souls are smitten by the phenomenon of playing fantasy football!

Consuming Football Facts

It may not surprise you to learn fantasy football is a very big business. It is estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association that 32 million people, aged twelve and older in the U.S. and Canada, play fantasy sports. The trade group notes that fantasy football players make up 90% of the fantasy sports “industry.” This participation has grown by over 60% the last four years with 19% of males in the U.S. playing fantasy sports.

Because of this high level of participation many consumer products companies such as Sprint, Yahoo, ESPN, Fox and others have invested millions of dollars in fantasy football services and promotions. The two groups who usually disagree about almost everything associated with professional football – NFL properties (composed of the team owners) and NFL Players (the players’ union) – have both created products and services that encourage fans to play fantasy football.

The Texas Back Institute Dream Team 

Most of the fun of playing fantasy football involves choosing a “dream team” from a group of outstanding players. There are no bad football players in the NFL. They’re all good. Therefore, getting to choose the best of the best for one’s own team can be great fun.

In a similar fashion, the spine specialists at Texas Back Institute are the best in their class and as such, there are only great choices. In celebration of the hundreds of thousands of fantasy drafts in full-swing at this moment, we thought we’d introduce you to our dream team.

History of the Team:

Texas Back Institute was formed in 1977 by Stephen Hochschuler, M.D., Ralph Rashbaum, M.D. and Richard Guyer, M.D. The organization is internationally recognized for excellence for spine injuries. In football terms, this team plays offense and defense equally well and the patients are the big winners.

The Texas Back Institute Fantasy Team:

As with NFL teams, the Texas Back Institute team is composed of the best of the best of spine surgery, research and therapy. The game plan for our team has been consistent for more than 35 years. Each patient injury or condition is unique and is best treated with the most minimally invasive approach.

Here’s a brief “draft” report on each of the Texas Back Institute physicians.

arakal0Rajesh G. Arakal, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Arakal and other TBI surgeons to your team if you need thorough evaluation and treatment of cervical, thoracic and lumbar pathology.

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Theodore Belanger, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Belanger and other TBI back experts to your team if you want a spine specialist who evaluates each patient and their situation carefully and makes treatment recommendations based on their goals.

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Andrew R. Block, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Specialties: Psychologist

Add Dr. Block to your team if you need to overcome emotional difficulties of surgery, deal with stress and control medications to achieve the best surgical outcomes.

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Scott L. Blumenthal, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Blumenthal and other TBI back specialists to your team if you believe the goal of a spine surgeon is to get his patients back to life using the most advanced motion-preserving technologies, including lumbar and cervical artificial discs as well as posterior dynamic stabilization.

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Rey Bosita, M.D., M.B.A.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Bosita and other TBI physicians to your team if you want to be treated with respect and have your fears about neck and back pain removed.

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W. Daniel Bradley, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Dr. Bradley along with every other TBI specialist should be on your team if you feel treatment should use the latest in motion preservation and minimally invasive surgical techniques.

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James D. Cable, M.D.

Specialties: Occupational & Sports Medicine

Add Dr. Cable to your team for occupational and sports medicine issues. He knows wear and tear eventually affect all of us but most back pain is manageable with proper care.

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Michael F. Duffy, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Duffy to your team if you agree that we should get busy living! His goal and that of the other spine specialists at TBI is to deliver effective spinal care to patients in order for them to return to doing what it is that makes them happy.

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Sharon J. Gibbs, M.D.

Specialties: Physiatrist

Add Dr. Gibbs to your team if being in pain affects many aspects of your life. As a physiatrist she works hard to provide patients with the best comprehensive non-surgical care.

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Richard D. Guyer, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

As one of the founding physicians of Texas Back Institute, Dr. Guyer is both a player and a coach for new team members. Add him to your team if you agree with his “family test” philosophy – treating patients the way he would want his family members to be treated.

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Shawn M. Henry, D.O.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Dr. Henry and the other spine specialists at TBI should be on your team if you want to be treated with the most advanced technology and treatment available for your condition; holding surgery as a last resort.

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Michael S. Hisey, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Hisey to your team if you feel the goal of neck and back treatment is to return patients to productive and pain-free activity using the most advanced minimally invasive and motion-preserving techniques.

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Stephen H. Hochschuler, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Hochschuler and the other spine surgeons at Texas Back Institute to your team if you have lumbar spinal problems or have had a failed spinal procedure.

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Effat Jehan, M.D.

Specialties: Spine Triage Specialist

Add Dr. Jehan and the other specialists at TBI to your team if you feel the goal should be to help treat not only back and neck issues but also to provide effective coordinated support to help patients get through every day of life without any stresses related to their condition.

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Craig Lankford, M.D.

Specialties: Physiatrist

If you want to be treated with respect, compassion, add Dr. Lankford and every other physician at TBI to your team. He can help you understand how pain affects your everyday life in order to help you get back to life.

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Isador Lieberman, M.D., M.B.A., FRCSC

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Lieberman and the other spine surgery experts at TBI to you team if you want to be treated as if you were the only patient we have.

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Jason Marchetti, M.D.

Specialties: Physiatrist

If you believe in ethical treatment and the importance of educating patients regarding all available treatment options, you should consider adding Dr. Marchetti and the other spine specialists at TBI to your team.

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Nayan R. Patel, M.D.

Specialties: Physiatrists

Add Dr. Patel to you team if you think patients should be treated in the same way a physician treats his own family.

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Ralph F. Rashbaum, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, Pain Management

Add Dr. Rashbaum and the other spine surgery specialists at TBI to your team if you want a timely response to back conditions which leads to predictable outcomes.

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Jessica Shellock, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Add Dr. Shellock to you team if you think it’s time to take your life back, with minimally invasive treatment. Along with the other experts on the TBI team, she is highly trained in the latest procedures.

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Stephen R. Tolhurst, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

If you want a doctor who sees surgery as a last resort and is dedicated to returning you to the lifestyle you had before the back pain, you want Dr. Tolhurst on your team.

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Jack E. Zigler, M.D.

Specialties: Orthopedic Spine Surgeons

Add Dr. Zigler and the other spine surgeons at TBI to your team if think surgery should be the last resort. However, if it’s required, he’s one of the best spine surgeons in the U.S.

Choosing Your Team

There are literally hundreds of ways to set up your league and arrange for a draft of NFL players. The best advice for those new to this pastime is to understand how the players’ performance will be scored each week. This will help determine the number of running backs, wide receivers, tight ends to choose. For example, in some leagues, the yardage gained by running backs is weighted higher than the passing yardage of quarterbacks.

One should also be aware of the “bye” weeks each team has (when they are not playing) because this will mean a player on the team with the bye, will not play that week and should not be in the lineup.  Here’s a good primer  on choosing your fantasy team.

Fortunately, choosing a spine specialist is much easier than choosing a fantasy football team! With more than 35 years of excellence in spine treatments, management of many FDA trials and a foundation of minimally invasive treatment, the dream team of physicians at Texas Back Institute is championship caliber.

DUCK-DYNASTY-facebookYou might say the executives of the A&E cable network were pleased with the premiere of the 2013 season of Duck Dynasty. Actually, it would be more accurate to say they were happy, happy, happy – to borrow a phrase from the patriarch of the Robertson clan!  As USA Today noted, “Wednesday’s episode, which focused on a surprise wedding-vow renewal ceremony for Phil and Kay Robertson, attracted 11.8 million viewers and 6.3 million advertiser-coveted young adults (18-to-49).” This was no fluke. This episode was up 37% in viewers and 26% in young adults vs. last season’s premiere, which also set records.

So, what gives here? Why would almost 12-million viewers tune in to a reality show based on the often ridiculous exploits of a group of self-avowed, redneck duck hunters?

Dr. Ralph F. Rashbaum, M.DWe asked Texas Back Institute surgeon and avid outdoor sportsman Dr. Ralph Rashbaum that question and his response is consistent with media observers around the world, “It’s simple, really. This show is about family values. All of the hunting, fishing, duck calls and related hijinks are just supporting storylines to this.”

Whether it was intentional or not, Duck Dynasty and the Southern charm of the extended Robertson family has had a positive influence on a large number of people –  both city slickers and country bumpkins – who have developed an interest in hunting and fishing. While the fishing rod, shotgun and camouflage apparel manufacturers are (dare we say it) happy, happy, happy, this will inevitably lead to more people in the fields when the fall hunting season kicks off in September.

Unfortunately, some of these hunters will show up in Dr. Rashbaum’s examining room shortly thereafter. Before getting some advice from him about avoiding back injuries while swinging that shotgun, let’s take a moment to introduce Duck Dynasty to precious few who have not made the acquaintance of the Robertson family of West Monroe, Louisiana.

Meet the Folks who Work for Duck Commander

 

The storylines of the 1950’s situation comedy “I Love Lucy” worked around a one-bedroom apartment in New York City where Lucy and Ricky Ricardo managed to get into hysterical predicaments with the help of their neighbors, Fred and Ethyl Mertz. Similarly, almost every episode of Duck Dynasty incorporates the “Duck Commander” duck call factory. Unlike Lucy and Ricky’s home, this factory actually exists and this very successful company, started by Phil Robertson, has produced highly regarded duck calls for many years.

When Phil retired to hunt ducks, fish for crappie and teach his grandbabies “how to avoid becoming yuppies,” his son Willie took over as CEO of Duck Commander. The other Robertson son, Jase, is an employee of the company and, as the most of the funny premises of the show result from Jase refusing to recognize the authority of his older brother, Willie. He is usually joined in this harassment of his brother by their Uncle Si, Phil’s brother, a Vietnam vet, perpetual ice-tea drinker and full time philosopher, and the rest of the employees at Duck Commander.

Each week, these real-life characters deal with simple issues that are cleverly embellished to become a comedic crisis. In the end, everything gets worked out and the last scene of every episode has the entire family around the dinner table with Phil saying grace.

Duck Dynasty: A Boon for Outdoor Sports

The fun these folks on Duck Dynasty are having is resonating with men and women who have decided to take up the sports of hunting and fishing. Several outdoor sports trade publications have noted that the show has done more for increasing the popularity of these ancient pursuits than anything in the past century.

It’s estimated by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) that more than 20.6 million people in the U.S. hunt each year and this number will likely increase with the popularity of this show and others like it. Two years ago, the NSSF noted that more than 8,000 U.S. hunters annually were injured while enjoying their time in the woods and as more novice hunters get out in the field, this number will likely increase.

As someone who is both an avid outdoor sportsman and highly-regarded spine surgeon, Dr. Ralph Rashbaum is in a unique position to offer some guidance to both novice and seasoned hunters and anglers. “Stamina and flexibility are the two most important factors in avoiding back strains or injuries, but common sense and proper safety precautions are even more important,” he said.

Hochschuler and Rashbaum 03Dr. Rashbaum continued, “I love to bow hunt and many times this is done from a tree stand to avoid the superior sense of smell enjoyed by deer. Climbing up to the stand can cause back strains if the muscles are not properly conditioned. Falling from a tree stand can seriously injure or facture the vertebrae in the spine. This type of accident is very common and it can be avoided with proper precautions.”

Dove season begins in most states in September and many hunters will be donning the camo and swinging their 12 and 20-guage shotguns for hours. What does Dr. Rashbaum suggest for these hunters to avoid back strains and injuries?

“I’ve been on a 4-day dove hunt in South America, where my son-in-law and I shot more than 2,300 rounds of 12 and 20-gauge shells! Needless to say, we were tired at the end of the day (however, not as tired as the retrievers who brought back the birds!), but because we had conditioned our shoulders, neck and arms and had spent time stretching these muscles before the hunt, we were able to have an amazing experience and very little back pain.”

Fishing is also popular with the Duck Dynasty clan and millions of other outdoor sports enthusiasts. What does Dr. Rashbaum recommend to avoid back strain from a day of casting? “It really depends on the type of fishing you are thinking about. I love to deep-sea fish and also enjoy fly fishing in fresh water. These are two very different experiences and require different conditioning.”

“If you think you might fighting a marlin for two hours on the open sea, you should definitely get to the gym a few weeks before the trip and work on building strength in your back, shoulder and arm muscles. This can be done with weight training as well as such exercises as rowing and pull-downs. On the other hand, the most dangerous part of fly fishing is not from casting but rather from walking on slippery rocks to get near the fish. Having appropriate equipment – waders with boots that don’t slide and using a walking stick – will help with this.”

Life Lessons of Duck Dynasty

It’s interesting that the situations and values portrayed on Duck Dynasty seem to be as relevant to an urban audience as it is to that which is rural. While he lives and practices in the highly-urbanized area, Dr. Rashbaum is a big fan of the show. “The people on Duck Dynasty are the salt of the earth and represent the best of family values. Plus, they’re very funny!”

It appears that life lessons of Phil, his family and friends on Duck Dynasty go beyond frog catching and duck calling. As Uncle Si would say: “That’s a fact, Jack.”

All Star Back Care

July 15, 2013

MLBallstargame

When Dr. Rey Bosita of The Texas Back Institute talks about back health and baseball, his voice reveals his passion for both subjects. He clearly loves the game and his medical profession. This makes Dr. Bosita the ideal source to share information and opinions about the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star game and how these athletes deal with back injuries.

Since Texas Back Institute is the Official Spine Specialist for the Frisco RoughRiders, the AA affiliate of the Texas Rangers baseball club, Bosita knows all about baseball-oriented back injuries. Before getting his thoughts on back injuries and ball players, let’s take a brief look at the 2013 MLB All-Star game.

The Fan Favorites

This year’s All-Star game will be played at Citi Field in New York City, the home field for the National Leagues New York Mets, on Tuesday evening, July 16, 2013. As always, the game will be nationally televised on Fox and the festivities begin at 7 p.m. (Central).

The MLB All-Star game owes much of its popularity to the fact that professional baseball fans can vote on the players who will take the field. Of course, this “popularity contest” format has gotten negative comments in the past – particularly from traditional baseball fans who feel that a player’s on-field abilities and performance in the first half of the season, rather than his name identification – more often than not, the popular vote reflects what type of season the starting lineup players are having. A great example of this is Baltimore Oriole’s first baseman, Chris Davis.

After being traded from the Texas Rangers to the O’s, Davis is having a remarkable year at the plate – 85 RBIs and 33 homeruns. In the All-Star voting, he finished with 8,272,243 fan votes to edge out last year’s triple-crown winner, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, who amassed 8,013,874 votes. Since neither plays for teams in large metropolitan markets, where vote totals can be manipulated by in-stadium promotions and both are having great years, it appears the fans made the correct, non-partisan, decision.

On the National League side, St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina was the leading vote-getter and he joins 4 other Cardinal teammates to make the Midseason Classic lineup. The NL player who has gotten lots of attention for his amazing season after being called up from the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league team, Yasiel Puig, failed to make the All-Star team this year.

2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Starting Lineups

The American League Starters include:

Joe Mauer (C – Twins)

Chris Davis (1-B – Orioles)

Robinson Cano (2-B – Yankees)

J.J. Hardy (SS – Orioles)

Miguel Cabrera (3-B – Tigers)

Mike Trout (OF – Angles)

Adam Jones (OF – Orioles)

Jose Bautista (OF – Blue Jays)

David Ortiz (DH – Red Sox)

For the National League:

Yadier Molina (Catcher – Cardinals)

Joey Votta (1B – Reds)

Brandon Phillips (2B – Reds)

Troy Tulowitzki (SS – Rockies)

David Wright (3B – Mets)

Carlos Beltran (OF – Cardinals)

Carlos Gonzales (OF – Rockies)

Bryce Harper (OF – Nationals)

Over the course of their careers, most if not all of these All-Stars have had to deal with injuries and some have been serious. Unlike football, baseball is considered a non-contact sport. However, there are more than a few collisions between runners trying to make it home and catcher trying to guard the plate and the constant swinging and throwing can take its toll on these athletes. Injuries to the spine and back are very common in this sport and we talked with Texas Back Institute surgeon, Dr. Rey Bosita to shed some light on how playing baseball can be dangerous to your back health.

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Now Batting – Dr. Rey Bosita

Dr. Bosita was between appointments when we caught up with him and asked him about the most common back ailments for professional baseball players. He said, “Lumbar sprains and other muscular strains are the most common back problems for baseball players. However, the most serious injury is a disc herniation. This involves the damage to the disc, which cushions the vertebra in the spinal column. When a player has a herniated disc, there is intense pain and any movement – whether it’s swinging a bat or throwing a baseball – almost impossible.”

So, what causes a herniated disc?

Dr. Bosita noted, “It can occur as a result of repetitive stress, for example if a player is swinging a bat for hundreds of times each week. A disc can be herniated when a player takes a powerful swing and misses or it can be the result of a collision on the base paths.”

Texas Back Institute is the Official Spine Specialist for the Frisco RoughRiders team and because they are just starting their careers in professional baseball, these players tend to be younger than those in the “big show” in Major League Baseball. Does the age of a player have any effect on the likelihood of back injuries?

“Definitely,” notes Dr. Bosita. “Older players have much more wear and tear on their back muscles, discs and vertebra and the constant repetitive stress from playing more than 160 games a year can gradually wear down these back muscles and cartilage. Plus, younger players tend to be in better condition and their muscles can withstand the quick starts and stops of baseball.”

Bosita was quick to note that some older players such as retired Baltimore infielder Cal Ripkin showed remarkable conditioning and ability to play with pain. “During his famous and historic complete games run, Ripkin played with a lumbar compression. This would have incapacitated most players, but Ripkin continued to play every day with this condition.”

What type of conditioning exercises do professional baseball players use to avoid the back sprains and other, more serious injuries?

Dr. Bosita said, “Cross training exercises which are designed to improve flexibility and strength and proper pre-workout stretching and post-workout cool downs are the most important elements of a conditioning regimen. Since baseball players are required to go from a complete stop to full-speed at the crack of a bat, it’s important that they remain loose even when they are in the dugout. Stretching will help with this.”

The All-Star Team at Texas Back Institute

The All-Stars who take to the field on July 16th are at the very top of their profession. Their conditioning is impeccable and their knowledge of potential injuries is extensive. And yet, the odds are very good that at some time, in the course of a season, they will experience a back injury that can potentially end their season or career.

If these athletes, with all of their physical conditioning and knowledge can be sidelined by back injury, it goes without saying that non-athletes can also experience the pain and physical limitation of back injury or pain. When this happens, it’s a good idea to go to the specialists – the All Stars – who deal with these issues every day: Texas Back Institute.

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The National Football League is about 4 months from the opening day kick-off and yet millions of football fans will be riveted to their televisions and computer tablets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Why? The annual NFL draft of amateur players occurs on these nights and for at least 254 players, it’s the most important day in their young lives.

Being chosen in the NFL draft is the first official step to becoming a member of a very elite club. It’s a club which can be very lucrative and one where the membership is short-lived – usually about 6 years. It’s also a business where the occupational hazard often includes debilitating back pain.

Since Texas Back Institute specializes in spine injuries, artificial disc replacement, and treatment of chronic back pain, we thought it might be interesting for players and fans alike to get a glimpse into how these supermen withstand the back pain resulting from playing professional football. For this analysis, we’ve asked Dr. Shawn Henry, whose specialty at Texas Back Institute is spinal surgery, to give us his expert opinion on how these men survive a  physically demanding of team sports. But first, let’s look at this year’s draft.

Who Gets the Top Pick?

For the players who hope to hear their name called from the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, draft day is the next step in a journey which likely started when they were about 8 years old, competing in Pop Warner or Pee Wee football. Through high school and college, these athletes have excelled in a game that requires strength, speed, year-round conditioning and athletic instincts only a tiny percentage of human beings possess.

Using a formula that allows the teams with the worst record in the previous year to get the earliest choices and theoretically the most talented players, the NFL draft has gone from a little observed event, watched by a few hardcore sportswriters in the early days of the league, to a three-day, fan-friendly happening. This year is no exception. The hoopla around the draft is palpable.

While it is always possible for a last-minute “trade” to occur among the teams which can change the order of their drafting position, as it stands now the first five teams in this year’s draft and their likely picks (based on media reports) are:

(1)  Kansas City – Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

(2)  Jacksonville – Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon

(3)  Oakland – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

(4)  Philadelphia – Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

(5)  Detroit – Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

For the rest of the draft order, you can click here.

Based on factors too numerous to list, many of the teams have more draft picks than others. For example, San Francisco, which had an excellent year in 2012, has the most number of picks in this year’s draft at 13. Theoretically, this should enhance their status in the upcoming season. Whereas, New England, New Orleans, Chicago and Carolina with the fewest number of picks (5) should be at a disadvantage. However, NFL fans know  having lots of draft picks seldom translates to a winning season.

When the smoke clears on Saturday night, 254 players will realize their dream of playing in the National Football League, assuming they make the team. Unfortunately, not every player drafted makes the cut and others in  this group can  sustain an injury in the summer training camps conducted by every team  prior to the opening of the season and their dream will die.

As noted earlier, a typical NFL career is extremely short – usually about 6 years for a player who is on the opening day roster. The reason for this is obvious when one watches the games each Sunday. The human body –even the superhuman bodies of these highly-conditioned players – has not evolved to the point of sustaining the type of repetitive trauma experienced in a typical season without injuries.

Some of these injuries can be  associated with the neck and back areas of the body and for some insights about these we asked the opinion of an expert, Dr. Shawn Henry an orthopedic spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute.

Henry_MD_web_1Over a typical season, the bodies of professional football players take a tremendous pounding. What is it about these player’s bodies that allows their backs hold up under this abuse?

In order to have attained their position in the NFL, a player has spent his life building muscle mass. This is the most important aspect of his conditioning is what allows the player to withstand the constant trauma of a typical season. This muscle mass gives dynamic support to the spine. Every player in the league has built strong abdominal muscles, quadriceps and other muscles groups and these “load share” the impact of the constant hits to the spinal column.

As fans, we often hear that a player has sustained a “stinger.” What is a stinger and is this a serious injury?

Basically, when someone gets hit hard in the neck and shoulder areas, the impact causes a temporary trauma to the peripheral nervous system. This causes a short-term burning, stinging pain. However, since this does not affect the central nervous system, there is no potential for paralysis and typically goes away in a short time.

The NFL Players’ Association notes the most common back problem among their members is degenerative disc disease, associated with arthritis. What does this mean and how can a player avoid this?

Actually, the most common back problem for every human, not just a professional football player, is degenerative disc disease. The medical term for this arthritic condition is “spondylosis” and it is a condition that is exacerbated by smoking, obesity and trauma. A player is not likely to smoke, but he may have tendencies toward obesity and withstanding physical trauma is a part of the job description. This trauma and weight can cause injury to the disc. For an athlete, good conditioning is the only way to help protect your spine.

There will likely be a great many young athletes watching the NFL Draft this weekend thinking they might get a chance to perform in the Big Show in the future. What can a young football player focus on in order to strengthen his back muscles?

The key is to build core, isometric spine stabilization. Weak core muscles cause injuries. They should also work on flexibility and increasing a range of motion in their muscle groups, their cervical spine and their lumbar spine areas. They should also make certain the correct equipment – helmets, pads, collars – are used in practice and game situations.

In your practice, what is the most common back injury  you see in younger athletes?

The most common ailment in high school and college athletes is a herniated disc in the neck and a pars fracture in the lower back. This is most commonly seen among interior linemen because they extend their spine by arching their back when they come off the line to block. With repetitive trauma a fracture can occur. Interestingly, because of the tendency to extend the spine, this condition also occurs with some regularity among equestrian competitors and ballet dancers.

What is the NFL doing to help control the number of spinal injuries among players?

Because of the potential for long-term neurological disorders, the league is researching the effects and prevention of concussions among players. There is no correlation between concussions – which affect the central nervous system – and back injuries. As for the league’s efforts in helping to reduce back injuries, there have been many advances in helmets, facemasks and neck wraps. Plus, a few years ago the NFL  introduced rules which prohibit “spearing” and this has probably resulted in fewer incidences of spine and back injuries.

Injuries Are a Part of the Game

Based on viewer ratings, the National Football League has become the most popular spectator sport in the United States. The athletes in this game are big, strong and fast and when they collide, injuries will inevitably happen. As every NFL coach says a few times every season: “injuries are a part of the game.” Hopefully, with better conditioning and high-tech equipment, these spine injuries will be limited in the future.

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Gracie Rasmussen is a 13-year-old athlete who loves the sport of cheerleading. Her dream had always been to compete for Cheer Athletics, a nationally renowned cheerleading powerhouse.  She worked hard to make the team, spending hours in the gym each day perfecting every tumble, dance move and stunt.  Like most of the girls, she had to ice down parts of her body that would ache after practice.  For Gracie, it was her back that hurt the most, a pain easy to dismiss after watching the cheerleaders tumble, jump, stretch and flip over and over again.

It was actually a weekend off from cheerleading, spent on the lake with her family that brought her a diagnosis of scoliosis.  Gracie and her sister, Sawyer, were riding an inner-tube being pulled by a boat on the lake, when they both fell off and jarred their backs. An X-ray on Gracie’s back confirmed much more than bruising: it illuminated a severe case of scoliosis that was bending Gracie’s spine at a 65-degree angle.

“I was just so impressed with Dr. Lieberman,” said Lynn Rasmussen, Gracie’s mom. “He spoke directly to her.  He looked her in the eye and told her exactly what was going on. He worked her in and within two weeks, she was having surgery.”

“Gracie’s eight-hour surgery was an instrumentation correction fusion for idiopathic scoliosis – essentially, we realigned her spine and locked everything where it needed to be by using computer-navigated robotic assistance for the placement of the hardware,” noted Dr. Lieberman. “We use tools like this to achieve the best accuracy, effectiveness and efficiency we can for patients who need a procedure like this.”

Cheerleaders are known for their positive attitudes and strong spirits.  But it was faith, Gracie says, that pulled her through: “I was really nervous about the surgery, but I knew that I needed it. I had just made Cheer Athletics team – it was my dream to go there.  I just prayed about it.” A strong Christian faith and friends at her church, Prestonwood North Baptist Church, Gracie said, helped her through surgery and recovery. She spent eight days in the hospital at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano and continues physical therapy at home.

Almost a year post-surgery, it was mom Lynn who was the most nervous as her daughter prepared to do her first back flip on the mat at the gym where Gracie practices.

“I couldn’t believe it when she did it,” she recalled. “I was jumping up and down and saying, ‘Gracie, you did it! You did it! And she looked at me and rolled her eyes and said, ‘Mom, I’ve done this, like, a thousand times before.’ But I was thinking, ‘Yes, but you got it back!’ Nothing prepares you for watching your child relearn everything they knew, from lifting their head to walking to tumbling.”

Gracie’s passion for cheering pushed her to work hard through her recovery to continue the sport she loves so much.  Her coaches credit her strong work ethic and muscle memory for allowing her to get back onto the mat so quickly post-surgery.

“Tumbling is a lot easier now,” notes Gracie, when talking about her recovery and her return to her sport. “It’s straighter and it’s easier.” Gracie never knew that it was a curve in her spine that was causing her to veer off to the side during tumbling passes, something she had struggled to control. Even just months after her surgery, she felt that her back was stronger and that things were coming easier than they did before.

“Gracie is an athlete,” said Dr. Lieberman. “While we want the best outcome we can for all patients, we know that flexibility is particularly important for these young men and women.”

Gracie, who loves English and writing, is looking forward to writing the ending to this chapter in her life, which she hopes includes a spot on her high school cheerleading squad. One day, she wants to help others by going into the field of physical therapy or sports medicine, and she is excited to share her story with other patients who may be going through a similar experience with a diagnosis of scoliosis.

Her advice for them?

“Just trust the doctors and know that you will be stronger than you ever were.”

Spoken like a true cheerleader.

Now that the school year is off to a good start and football season is in full swing many may think the safest place for athletes is on the sidelines, however, studies show this isn’t necessarily the safest place for athletes anymore.  In the 29th Annual CATASTROPHIC SPORTS INJURY RESEARCH report high school cheerleading is accounted for 64.8% of injuries to female athletes and 70.6% at the college level.  Many attribute this high injury rate with an increase in gymnastic type stunts.  Though injuries may never be completely preventable, there are some tips cheerleaders can follow-up help decrease the likelihood of injury.

According to The University of North Caroline National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research the following are a list of sample guidelines that may help prevent cheerleading injuries:

1. Cheerleaders should have medical examinations before they are allowed to participate.  This would include a complete medical history.

2. Cheerleaders should be trained by a qualified coach with training in gymnastics and partner stunting. This person should also be trained in the proper methods for spotting and other safety factors.

3. Cheerleaders should be exposed to proper conditioning programs and trained in proper spotting techniques.

4. Cheerleaders should receive proper training before attempting gymnastic and partner type stunts and should not attempt stunts they are not capable of completing.  A qualification system demonstrating mastery of stunts is recommended.

5. Coaches should supervise all practice sessions in a safe facility.

6. Mini-trampolines and flips or falls off of pyramids and shoulders should be prohibited.

7. Pyramids over two high should not be performed.  Two high pyramids should not be performed without mats and other safety precautions.

8. If it is not possible to have a physician or certified athletic trainer at games and practice sessions, emergency procedures must be provided.  The emergency procedure should be in writing and available to all staff and athletes.

9. There should be continued research concerning safety in cheerleading.

10. Cheerleading coaches should follow the concussion policy and guidelines published by the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations).

11. Cheerleading coaches should have some type of safety certification.

12. The NFHS should make cheerleading a sport, which will place cheerleading under the same restrictions and safety rules as all other high school sports (physical exams, qualified coaches, safe facility, athletic trainers, practice limits, and starting and ending dates for practice and games or competitions). The NCAA should follow this same recommendation.

A cheerleader has been defined as someone who calls for and directs organized cheering, but more recently cheerleading involves much more than this.  It’s important everyone involved in cheerleading is taking an active approach to keeping our cheerleaders safe.

Do you love cheerleading?  Tell us what’s your favorite thing about cheerleading below!

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