AAOS Bulletin - October, 2006

AAOS and MLB team up to get kids active

By Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD

Parents may know best, but that doesn’t mean they can’t use some Major League help, especially when it comes to encouraging a healthy lifestyle. When parents tell children to eat their vegetables or get some exercise, kids commonly respond by rolling their eyes and stubbornly refusing.

Yet, what if healthy diet advice came from St. Louis Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein? What if encouragement to exercise came from L.A. Dodgers first baseman Nomar Garciaparra? Then, at least, the chances are much better that the child would pay more attention.

Frank B. Kelly, MD, helps the kids bone up on healthy choices at Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.

That’s the idea behind the Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth (PLAY) program—a partnership effort by the AAOS, 10 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), and the American Diabetes Association. The program is designed to help prevent childhood obesity and encourage healthy and active lifestyles among children.

Good habits

AAOS Communications Cabinet Chair Frank B. Kelly, MD, who attended the PLAY event at Turner Field in Atlanta, thinks that the program is a hit.

“The younger that kids get exposure to a healthy lifestyle, the more impact it will have,” he says. “They need to hear this message from as many people as possible, and the ball players were definitely a big draw.”

Ask the head athletic trainer for the Atlanta Braves what inspires people to remain active and fit, and he won’t mince words. “Skills learned early in life make it easier to stay more active and healthier as an adult,” says the Braves’ Jeff Porter, ATC.

Statistics reveal that one in five American children between the ages of 6 and 17 is overweight, making physical fitness an important issue facing the adults of tomorrow. Overweight children bear a higher risk of developing serious health problems later in life, including type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, musculoskeletal ailments, bowel cancer and high blood pressure. PLAY helps teach children the importance of physical activity in building stronger bones, joints and muscles.

Working as a team

In each of the 2006 PLAY events, MLB players, athletic trainers, nutritionists and orthopaedic surgeons created hands-on lessons in fitness, nutrition and injury prevention. The teams’ orthopaedic surgeons played a particularly important role, as each doctor explained how orthopaedists work with professional athletes to keep them healthy and even heal some injuries nonsurgically. They also spoke to the children about how important it is to be active every day.

To date, PLAY has helped more than 1,000 children to learn about developing a healthy lifestyle through good nutrition choices and regular exercise. The following MLB teams and AAOS fellows have helped PLAY get out the word:

  • Houston Astros—Howard Epps, MD, and David Lintner, MD
  • Atlanta Braves—Xavier Duralde, MD, and Frank Kelly, MD
  • Chicago White Sox—Charles A. Bush-Joseph, MD
  • Boston Red Sox—Thomas Gill, MD
  • St. Louis Cardinals—George A. Paletta Jr, MD
  • Los Angeles Dodgers—Matthew Hansen, MD; Frank W. Jobe, MD, and Norman Otsuka, MD
  • Cleveland Indians—Mark S. Schickendantz, MD
  • New York Yankees—Stuart J. Hershon, MD
  • Detroit Tigers—Stephen Lemos, MD
  • Arizona Diamondbacks—Matthew Hansen, MD, and Michael T. Lee, MD

The positive effect of PLAY is summed up by Dr. Otsuka, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles. “Judging by the smiles on the kids’ faces,” he concluded, “I’d say they had a great time and the healthy message got through.”

Nicholas DiNubile, MD, is chair of the Public Relations Oversight Group. To volunteer as a spokesperson for the AAOS, contact the public relations department at julitz@aaos.org

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