While encouraging children to get outside and play, pediatricians have also been advocating for them on many environmental issues. Sports Medicine physicians, like Shane Miller, M.D., are particularly concerned about how the climate and other changes will impact young athletes. These concerns fall into several key categories.
As the temperatures rise seasonally and with global changes, the risk for heat-related illness also increases. According to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “the number of deaths in American high school and college football players from heat stroke has doubled from 15 to 29 from 2000-2010.” Dr. Miller and many others believe deaths from heat illness are preventable, but future global changes may make that more difficult.
Exercise –induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), once considered exercise-induced asthma, is the reaction of the breathing airways to the environment. Though this often happens in cold and dry environments, it is made worse by smoke, smog, pollen, and other allergens in the air. Since children already breathe a little faster than adults, the added challenges of polluted air can make sports participation difficult, or even dangerous. Prevention and treatment strategies are successful for many children with EIB.
Disease Carrying Insects
The news is filled with warnings about infectious disease and many are spread by insects. Most recently, in our area, mosquitos are known to share West Nile and Zika viruses. Though many healthy individuals have recovered from these illnesses, the risk of major health consequences continue to rise.
Dr. Miller says, “We want the world to be a place where playing outside is safe and doesn’t cause problems for young athletes.” He has been invited to attend the AAP Children’s Health Symposium on Climate Change in Chicago. As the representative of the AAP’s Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, he will contribute to this national discussion with young athletes in mind.
For more information on pediatric sports medicine and injury prevention, please visit scottishritehospital.org/sports.