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Back bracing for scoliosis needs work, studies show


Friday, October 04, 2013
Dr. Jay Adlersberg

Eyewitness News


This article appears on the WABC website.  Watch the video.


NEW YORK (WABC) --  Bracing for scoliosis has been so controversial that until now, one recognized medical group advised against it. But braces have been used for years to prevent spine surgery for the problem, and now a report in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine racks up scientific evidence that braces do indeed need work.

You can see the scoliosis, curvature of the spine, as 12-year-old Shannon White bends forward. It started when she was very young.

"I was going to my doctor and she noticed that my shoulders weren't even, and I was about 5 or 6 at that time," said Shannon.

She went to a pediatric orthopedist.

"He started bracing me and hope that as I grew, it would decrease the curvature," said Shannon.

The new report backs up the idea of wearing a brace like this for 13 to 18 hours a day.

The report compared kids Shannon's age to see if bracing versus no bracing prevented progression of spine curvature. The results favored bracing so much that the study was stopped so all the kids could use the braces.

It's very flexible as well. Shannon has been wearing it for the hours that she sleeps, and for several hours after school.

"At sleep overs it's a little uncomfortable on the ground or in a sleeping bag," said Shannon.

But she told me she's now used to it, and she's able to take it off for sports, including gymnastics. She's had it two years. She'll wear it another year until her spine and the rest of her bones stop growing. She's had no progression of the curvature in the years she's worn the brace.

"That was our number one goal, to prevent the need for surgery on her back, and the brace has accomplished that," said Shannon's mom, Valerie White.

Scoliosis has a big genetic factor, Shannon's father had the problem. Because of that, she had a one in five chance of getting it too. In the pipeline is some DNA research that may help doctors figure out which patients will go on to progression of spine curvature, and which kids won't.

Dr. David Konigsberg THE VALLEY HOSPITAL




For some youngsters, injuries are psychological


MONDAY AUGUST 5, 2013, 7:29 AM


Bergen County pediatric orthopedist David Konigsberg often acts not only as an orthopedist, but also as detective and psychologist.

A 7-year-old gymnast complains of wrist pain too severe to continue but the physical examination shows no cause for that level of discomfort. She is not seriously hurt — she just wants out. She's not alone.

"They don't want to tell their parents they don't want to play, they just really want to be injured so they don't have to play anymore," Konigsberg said. "We see that all the time.

It's not just gymnastics, of course. Konigsberg has had similar scenarios play out with young athletes in all sports.

"Think about it — their parents have been bringing them to pitching lessons three times a week and batting lessons. Frankly it's the parents' team, it's not the kids' team," said Konigsberg, who coaches his twin 10-year-old sons. "The most graceful way out of it for the kids sometimes is to say, 'I'm hurting.' "

Burnout is another danger when kids are playing one sport, year-round, with the pressures that come with that focus and intensity from a young age.

John McCarthy, co-founder of the Yogi Berra Museum's Coaching Institute, runs seminars for coaches, parents and student athletes, and teaches a coaching class at Montclair State University. He said kids quit organized sports for many different reasons and he often sees burnout used as the excuse when it is really something else.

"If a kid has a high success level, they don't usually get burned out," McCarthy said. "If they are not able to measure up, they say they're not interested."

Sometimes, the child can see the reality that the parent is blind to.

"Part of it can also be, 'I'm not getting where they want me to go and I get it and they don't,' " said McCarthy, who added the athlete may also not want to make the necessary effort and time commitment to meet their parents' goals.

Garret Teel, owner and coach at Teels baseball and softball training center in Wyckoff and Closter, said he does see baseball players who have earned a collegiate roster spot only to walk away.

"I've watched so many parents push, push, push that kids finally get to school, they're away from their mom and dad, and they're playing baseball and they come back and say, 'I quit baseball,' " Teel said. "It has to come from the kid, not the parent."


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