April is National Youth Sports Safety Month, which means children and teens are transitioning back into sports season. As a result, there is a greater focus by schools and clinics on preventing youth sports injuries.
Young athletes typically attribute at least 50% of superior athletic performance to mental factors, but that still leaves another 50% just for actual physical performance. Most major injuries are treated by private physicians, but schools across California have created programs and set up clinics to better treat and bring more attention to the severity of student athlete injuries.
Some school districts, like Sweetwater, have talented physicians working with their student athletes. Dr. Charles Camarata and his team of physicians and trainers have been working with this district to provide free physicals and weekly injury clinics for more than 25 years.
Camarata himself has been involved with the Sweetwater district for just over 50 years. He still regularly attends sporting events throughout the district.
“We do this work for the community — we’re dedicated to safety,” he told The Star News.
Camarata and his team provided an estimated 850 free physicals for student athletes last year, and they hope to provide even more for the coming season. The weekly Saturday morning sports injury clinics are one of his greatest accomplishments. In the past, students injured on a Friday night often had to postpone treatment until Monday morning, but Camarata’s Saturday morning clinics guarantee next-day treatment and have helped uphold safety standards for student athletes.
Accurate diagnosis of concussions is another issue clinics across California are working to raise awareness about during National Youth Sports Safety Month. A clinic organized by Safe Kids Stanislaus County made this a key component of their sports safety seminar.
“[Athletes] think they have to lose consciousness to have a concussion … It’s a bruise to the brain, it doesn’t take that much,” said Jan Cartner, program manager for the Trauma Department at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto.
In order to raise concussion awareness among student athletes, Cartner and other clinic organizers set up an obstacle course in which students had to wear concussion goggles. The goggles function in a similar manner to beer goggles and help students identify the symptoms of a potential concussion. By completing this activity, organizers hope that young athletes will be better equipped to tell a coach or parent if they suspect a concussion.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Cartner said.