Return to sports after the COVID shutdown could be leading to more injuries

Posted at 5:25 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 23:47:33-04

(WXYZ) — In the U.S., about 30 million children and teens participate in some form of organized sports, and that brings about more than 3.5 million injuries each year.

But now that Michigan has reopened after the pandemic, one question is whether athletes will experience a higher rate of injury by returning to their sport too quickly. One local surgeon has seen an uptick in knee injuries and the reason is the fast track back to sports after COVID.

No matter the sport – football, basketball, track, you name it – an injury that puts you on the sideline is a crushing defeat, especially one that happens after a long COVID-19 lockdown.

Kerri Williamson's daughter Nina is a sophomore at Cousino High School and plays on the girls basketball team. But this three-sport athlete will be sidelined for 9-to-12 months after a knee injury sent her to the operating table.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 170,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for basketball-related injuries.

After the COVID lockdown was lifted, Dr. Nate Marshall, an orthopedic surgeon with Ascension Michigan Sports Medicine in Rochester Hills, saw a spike in ACL injuries. At least eight patients after the COVID lockdown was lifted.

Dr. Marshall operated on Nina to repair her torn ACL. After five months of rehab, she's worked her way up to a light jog and stationary basketball shots.

Like Nina, Mohammad Muray is a three-sport athlete for Rochester Adams High School. He is off the mat due to a full ACL tear from returning to wrestling too fast without proper conditioning.

"It was definitely a little shock to everyone's system trying to get back into the first meet," Mohammad said.

During the match, his whole knee shifted. Dr. Marshall did the surgery to repair it.

Additionally, overtraining in an effort to catch up is problematic, too. Many sports programs have ACL injury prevention protocols.

Many experts believe athletes should be screened for their risk of injury including monitoring their workload and testing their muscle or skeletal deficiencies. And while it may be too late for Nina and Mohammed, they do have a message others could learn from.

"If I could go back I would try and train more, even if we didn't know whether wrestling would come back. I would have tried to prepare myself as best I could to be in shape," Mohammed said.

Nina adding that she'd also take things slowly.

"Maybe not go in so fast so that you're not so prone to get injured," she said. "So that you can do the next season."