October 2004 Bulletin

PLAY: Promoting a lifetime of activity for youth

AAOS, PBATS and the Pittsburgh Pirates promote exercise to combat childhood obesity

By Carolyn Rogers

As interest in Major League Baseball heated up during the final weeks of the regular season, the Academy took full advantage of the “buzz” by teaming up with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) to present a fun, educational event for kids promoting the importance of being physically active, eating healthy and building strong bones.

At the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park, orthopaedist Mark J. Sangimino, MD, (center) talks to kids about the important role exercise plays in preventing orthopaedic problems as they mature.

The public awareness event, “Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth” (PLAY), brought Pittsburgh-area children, teachers and members of the media onto the playing field at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park for the chance to meet a Major League baseball player and talk to orthopaedic surgeons and certified athletic trainers about staying strong, active and healthy.

AAOS ‘steps up to the plate’

Mark J. Sangimino, MD—a Pittsburgh-based pediatric orthopaedic surgeon—represented the Academy at the event, talking to kids about orthopaedic problems that can result from childhood obesity and sharing advice on how to stay fit and build strong bones.

The program kicked off on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 22, 2004, a few hours prior to a Pirates’ home game against the Chicago Cubs. More than 100 children, school officials and members of the media spilled onto the field at PNC Park, where they gathered to hear welcoming remarks from former Pittsburgh Pirate Lynn Swann, now chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, and Brad Henderson, the Pirates’ head athletic trainer.

Next, the kids broke into “teams” and rotated around four “bases” set up in the outfield in the shape of a diamond. Each base was staffed by a medical professional who spoke briefly about an exercise or health-related topic.

Topics and presenters were:

First base: “How you can stay physically active” by Mike Sandoval, assistant athletic trainer

Second base: “Preventing injuries” by Mark Rogow, assistant athletic trainer

Third Base: “Stay fit to build strong bones” by Mark Sangamino, MD, AAOS; and Brad Henderson, head athletic trainer

Home Plate: “Healthy eating” by Frank Velasquez, strength and conditioning coach

After making it around all four bases, the boys and girls regrouped at home plate for the much anticipated “meet and greet” with Pirate’s infielder Jack Wilson. The All-Star shortstop greeted the fans, shared his ideas on keeping fit and active, answered questions, posed for photos and autographed dozens of “Jack Wilson” PLAY pledge cards.

The group was in high spirits as they settled in for lunch at the park’s picnic area, where they were treated to entertainment by the enthusiastic team mascot, the “Pirate Parrot.”

Win-Win situation

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter whether the scoreboard showed a “W” or an “L”—the event was a “win-win” for everyone involved. The Pirate’s organization and players connected with their fans; the orthopaedist and trainers “got the word out” to the media about combating childhood obesity, and the kids took home lifelong memories of one very special day at the ol’ ballpark.

Promote PLAY in your own community

The guidelines and “key messages” used by orthopaedic surgeons, athletic trainers and others in developing their PLAY presentations are listed below. These guidelines can easily be adapted for use in presentations to your own community.

Exercise and staying healthy

  • Exercise is an important way to keep your bones healthy throughout your entire life. Your bones grow the most when you are a child or teenager, so exercising now will make them stronger when you are an adult.
  • Kids who don’t get at least 35-60 minutes of exercise a day can miss their chance to build strong bones they’ll need later in life.
  • Developing healthy habits now will make you more likely to maintain healthy habits as an adult.
  • Suggest specific activities that the audience can do on their own to get 35-60 minutes of physical activity per day.
  • Regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of illnesses such as Type II diabetes or heart disease.

Stretching and Injury Prevention

  • Preparing the body for exercise is important for people at any age and all fitness levels.
  • A warm-up period should begin with easy stretching exercises as well as slow activities such as walking or jogging in place.
  • Give examples of stretches, explanation of their importance.
  • Discuss how after stretching, it’s important to gradually increase the intensity of exercise until your pulse rate, respiration rate and body temperature is elevated, which is usually about the time that you break a light sweat.

Orthopaedic information

  • Impact that obesity can have on your joints

Osteoarthritis (OA)

  • A joint is where two or more bones come together, letting you bend at the knee, hip, spine, elbow, wrist, shoulder, ankle, hand, thumb and many other parts of the body. A healthy joint glides easily without pain because a smooth, elastic tissue called articular cartilage covers the ends of the bones that make up the joint.
  • In the progressive disease OA, the covering on the ends of bones gradually wears away, becoming frayed and rough, like sandpaper. This can make it painful to move the joint. Obesity is a serious risk factor for OA.
  • Demonstration on model of joint
  • Discuss other bone or joint problems caused by obesity and how they can be treated and prevented


  • Leading a healthy lifestyle requires more than just physical activity; it also requires a balanced diet.
  • It’s important to vary what you eat.
  • Energy balance depends on the amount of calories you take in and use up each day. If you eat more calories than your body needs to perform your day’s activities, your body stores the extra calories as fat.
  • Hand out Food Guide Pyramid and discuss.
  • Have the kids come up with examples of healthy snacks.

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