Thursday, April 16, 2009
The ethics of pushing a child too hard in sports
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

The April 13, 2009 Sports Illustrated had an article on what they consider a new form of child abuse. It takes the form of parents pushing their children so hard in a single sport that the children experience overuse injuries. The feeling was that this was no different than a parent injuring a child from overzealous punishment. The underlying point in the article is that even professional athletes have an off season. The purpose of that time off is for them to heal nagging injuries. Children deserve the same off season. However, some parents will have their children practice the same sport year round. When the child gets an injury, they continue pushing. There were three examples used in the article that are worth sharing. All involve what is clearly a parent not understanding that the most important job they have is to allow their child to grow in a healthy manner. The first example involved a 10 year old tennis player. She had a sore shoulder. The parents brought her to the doctor to address her shoulder problem. They needed it fixed in a hurry. That was necessary because they needed to move up to No. 5 in the State within two weeks. The exam showed a stress fracture of the shoulder. If it was aggravated by her continuing to play tennis, there could have been a permanent injury to the growing shoulder. The doctor told the mother that she needed to take six months off from tennis to allow the process to heal. The mother went into a rage. She decided that physical therapy was all her daughter needed. The doctor was wrong. The second example was a 10 year old soccer player. He came to the doctor with knee pain. He had been playing soccer every day for two years with several games each week. He had a growth plate injury. If he continued playing soccer, his leg would stop growing. His father was his coach. He too became angry at the doctor. The mother had more sense. The child stopped playing soccer and took a full year to recover. The third example was a baseball player with Little League elbow. Little League elbow is a condition caused by a child throwing curve balls before his arm bones are fully developed. It does not usually occur if the child just throws fast balls until he matures. In this case the child needed surgery. When the doctor came out from surgery, he was expecting questions. He expected them to be things like: "how did the surgery go" or "how is my child doing". Instead the first question from the mother was: "how soon can he pitch again?" I once had a parent ask me about Little League elbow. I explained that all that was necessary was for the child to not throw curve balls. The response was: "That's like asking him not to pitch." I once was asked to speak to a group of coaches about football injuries. They only had one question after my presentation. They wanted to know if I could come to the games so I could examine injured players and allow them to go back into the game. I refused. I had two patients in one day from the same football team. Their regularly scheduled games were on Sundays. The coach scheduled an extra game on Saturday. They had both been injured in Saturday's game. Their injuries were aggravated in Sunday's game. They showed up in my office on Monday. I called the coach to complain. He blew me off. It was an Air Force Base football league. So I called the Wing commander and had the coach removed from his position. Parents and coaches are the adults involved in sports. The child cannot play sports without their active involvement. Pain means injury. It is the body's way of telling us to slow down. Overuse of certain parts of the body can result in that kind of injury. The adults around the child need to know that. They need to respect that. There are two key lessons here. The first is that every sport needs an off season. The second is that children are not professional athletes and should not play when there is a significant injury. They may endanger their normal growth. Any adult causing such endangerment is really abusing the child.

Volunteers needed for MS events The Delaware Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society needs volunteers to help with two spring fundraising events:
  • Friday, April 24, Bridgeville  Walk MS: Twilight at Heritage Shores
  • Friday, May 29, Long Neck  Walk MS: Twilight at Baywood Greens
  • Volunteers are needed on the day of the event from 4 to 8 p.m. and may choose from a range of activities, including registering event participants, supporting participants at rest stops, distributing t-shirts, loading and unloading supplies, setting up refreshments, and cheerleading at the finish line. For more information, contact Jenna Wagner at 302-655-5610 or email

    Hospice volunteer training Compassionate Care Hospice is offering training for anyone interested in becoming a hospice volunteer on Monday, April 27; Wednesday, April 29; Monday, May 4; and Wednesday, May 6 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. The training will be held at the Cancer Care Center, second floor Conference Room of Nanticoke Hospital in Seaford. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old, submit to routine background checks and participate in 16 hours of specialized training. Compassionate Care Hospice supports patients and families throughout Sussex County so volunteers can work in their own community. Volunteers are able to work according to their schedule and preference. In addition to supporting patients and families in the patients' home, volunteers can also make phone calls from their own home and/or provide office clerical support. Volunteers are encouraged to participate in monthly support meetings and exchange phone numbers to build a support network. For more information, contact Felicity Lavelle at 302-934-5900 or

    CHEER plans healthy living expo On Tuesday, April 21 the CHEER Community Center in Georgetown will host a free Healthy Living Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Healthy Living Expo, which is open to the public, has room for more vendors to set up a table at the expo. The fee is $75 or $50 if you offer a health screening. For registration or more information, call 302-854-9500.

    Race for Autism is April 26 The Lower Delaware Autism Foundation's 7th Annual Race for Autism is Sunday, April 26 at Cape Henlopen High School. The race features a half marathon, two person relay, 5K run, 5K family fun walk and a kiddie fun run. The half marathon will begin at 8:10 a.m. and if you register on or before April 25 the cost is $40. All other start times and registration fees vary. Pre-registration is requested. Pre-race packet pick up will take place on Saturday, April 25 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Greene Turtle in Lewes. The Greene Turtle will donate a portion of the proceeds of sales from 5 to 9 p.m. Fundraising is highly encouraged but not mandatory to run/walk. Those who raise more than $100 will receive a Race for Autism Bag; over $500, a $50 Walmart gift card; and those who raise more than $1,000 will receive a $100 American Express gift card. A grand prize will be given to the person who raises the most money over $1,000. "We are hoping that families and friends of those affected will begin forming teams and walk and fund raise together," said Mary Landon Green, LDAF program and event coordinator. Many volunteers are needed for this event. Church groups, civic groups, high school sports teams, businesses and families are encouraged to help. For more information or to register for the race online, visit or call Green at 302-644-3410.

    Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a General Cancer Support Group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones. The free monthly support group meets in the Second Floor Conference Room of the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The Wellness Community-Delaware is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. All facilitators of these groups are trained mental health professionals. For more information and to register, call 645-9150.

    Laurel Depression Support Group There will be a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.

    Nurses' assistant program Become a member of the rapidly expanding health care field by taking the evening nurses' assistant course, offered through Delaware Technical & Community College, Owens Campus. Instruction will be given at LifeCare at Lofland Park in Seaford and Delaware Tech in Georgetown from April 27 to June 25; classes will meet on Monday through Thursday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. This 150-hour course teaches students to safely perform basic nursing skills under the supervision of a licensed nurse. Graduates will be prepared to take the Nurse Aid Competency Exam for certification. All nurses' assistants must take this exam to be certified to work in Delaware. Funding through the Department of Labor and limited scholarships are available for this course. For complete information, contact Delaware Tech's Corporate and Community Programs at 302-854-6966.

    Win free care in essay contest The Home Instead Senior Care office serving Kent and Sussex Counties is sponsoring Caring Today magazine's "Give a Caregiver a Break" essay contest to honor family caregivers for their tireless service and dedication. The contest will award $16,000 in free caregiving services to the winning essay writers. In 500 words or less, non-professional family caregivers can relate their caregiving experiences, including the challenges they've faced, how they've embraced their role as a caregiver for a senior loved one and inspired others. Entries may be submitted until Monday, June 15. Grand prize is $5,000 of free care from Home Instead Senior Care; two first prize winners will each receive $2,500 of free care; and 12 extraordinary caregivers will receive $500 in service. The top three winning essays will be published in the fall issue of Caring Today and all 15 winning essays will appear on Complete rules for this year's contest can be found online at or

    Caregiver training available The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter sponsors The Family Caregiver Education Series four times a year in each of Delaware's three counties. Delaware Hospice Center at 100 Patriots Way in Milford will host the training on Friday, April 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The program includes a medical overview, legal and financial issues, challenging symptoms, daily care issues and information on getting the help you need. Training for family caregivers is free and lunch will be provided by Delaware Hospice. Pre-registration is required by Friday, April 17. For more information or to register, call Jamie Magee at 302-854-9788.