Many area youth athletes are working hard right now to be the best baseball players possible and there’s a lot at stake for these youngsters.
Baseball is a very competitive sport and with college and pro careers on the line, many of these kids are looking for that edge in the weight room. But even youths that have a professional athlete for a father guiding them in the weight room can overdo it.
Owen Blackledge, a 16-year-old sophomore at Hoover High School in North Canton, is the perfect example. His father, Todd Blackledge, is a storied football player. First at Hoover High School, then with Penn State, and later with the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s now a college football announcer and Owen’s father.
Owen is looking to make his own name in baseball and plays for his high school team and local travel team. He’s a promising pitcher and an infielder, and his teammates and coaches are looking for him to make an impact this year on the varsity team.
Around December, Owen began feeling lower back pain after working out. It was only recently, after a second back fracture occurred, that he came to our Sports Medicine Center and received guidance on his diagnosis: spondylolysis, which is a very common back injury in young athletes, and not just baseball players. Weight lifters, gymnasts and dancers are also prone to developing the condition.
Director of Sports Medicine Dr. Joseph Congeni is a pioneer in pediatric sports medicine and has been helping kids recover from sports injuries and get back in the game for more than 31 years. When the Blackledges came to Dr. Congeni, he gave the diagnosis that enabled the family to come up with a game plan to get Owen back on the field. Rest and some rehabilitation is the prescription. Dr. Congeni sees many of these types of cases.
“This is the No. 1 most common stress fracture that affects young athletes,” said Dr. Congeni. “Very often it is overlooked as a pulled muscle or muscle spasm, but in young athletes, stress fractures in the lower back are very common. Many kids either play through it or quit sports with no knowledge of why they are having problems.”
That’s why Dr. Congeni and the Blackledge family feel this is an important message to get out to high achieving youth athletes who measure their progress by how much they can bench press and how dedicated they are to working out. Sometimes you only get better with patience and rest worked into the regimen. And if you are feeling recurring back pain, it is a good idea to have it checked out by a sports medicine professional.
Even though he’s been chomping at the bit to weight train, Owen has showed great patience and has rested and been diligent with his rehab.
“I understand now that sometimes to get better at something, you have to do less,” said Owen.
He is now about to start the season with a new outlook on training. He’s feeling so much better and is excited to participate in the upcoming season.
“It is so important to find out about this early, before it becomes a career ending injury,” said Owen’s mom, Cherie Blackledge. “Dr. Congeni did a wonderful job explaining the diagnosis and relating to Owen. He helped Owen understand that aggressively resting and recovering is part of the step forward to getting back out on the field.”
Watch the segment with Channel 5 WEWS Reporter Bob Jones below.