Steinberg: Horrigan helps young athletes play it safe

Athletes are attracted to participate in sports at the high school level because of the bonding, competition and the many invaluable life lessons that they learn.

Unfortunately, an adolescent body is still in the growing process and subject to a greater risk of injury and consequences than in college and the pros.

My 40 years of work with professional athletes makes clear how deep and profound athletic denial about how risks can be. It starts early in life in Pop Warner, AYSO and Little League. Athletes are taught to ignore pain, be stoic and not jeopardize their chance to play.

Long-term health is an abstract concern, off the radar. Playing the next play becomes everything. This is why it is critical for athletes and their parents, coaches and trainers to make themselves aware of methods of prevention and the most effective treatment of athletic injury.

Dr. Joseph Horrigan, a world renowned sports medicine specialist, and his DISC Sports and Spine Center, are attempting to bring light into this murky landscape by holding a series of symposiums on the biomechanics of injuries and their prevention. These sessions will be held on Thursday evenings, Feb. 28 through May 9 at their clinic in Newport Beach.

Although offered free of charge, space is limited, so RSVP is required. Contact for more information or to register. Video podcasts, Q&As; and condensed presentations from the lectures will also be made available online in the weeks that follow.

Field experts, such as Nike track and field coach John Smith, Oakland Raiders team physician Dr. Fred Nicola and pioneering neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Bray Jr, will be part of the presentations. The series is titled, "Coaches and Captains," attempting to change the awareness on high school campuses surrounding injury and it is involving coaches and player team leaders.

These tend to be the role models that athletes take their cues from and any change in this paradigm needs to involve them.

Dr. Horrigan has been focused for the last 25 years on strength and condition and sports medicine. He was conditioning coach for the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and still is club coach for USA Weightlifting. He trained Jennifer Lawrence for her starring role in "The Hunger Games" and consulted on the film "Django Unchained."

I asked Dr. Horrigan for his motivation in holding these conferences.

"If we help one girl and one boy on each team, in each school, each year from having an ACL tear, one less concussion, one less SLAP tear, one less dehydration case, then we will have achieved something great and worthwhile," Horrigan said.

Topics will include "Concussions" (my personal crusade), "Improving the 40-Yard Dash," "Shoulder Injuries in Overhead Athletes," "Surprising Symptoms of Back Injuries," "ACL Injuries in Athletes," and "Preventing Dehydration."

The last topic continues to be a difficulty as the death of a Grambling St. athlete after running 4.5 miles in the summer heat of Louisiana — a wrongful death suit I testified in — illustrates.

Dr. Horrigan made the point that by the time someone recognizes that they are thirsty, they are already dehydrated.

The health of high school athletes in all sports is a serious concern for the schools, the athletes, and their parents. Some of the consequences not only prevent athletes from continuing to participate in sports at that level, they can lead to lifelong health problems.

The exciting news is that medical and training techniques to prevent and treat these athletes are evolving quickly. These seminars have the potential to raise the level of awareness and push this invaluable field forward.

LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports.

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