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HL20: James Andrews - Preventing Kids' Sports Injuries

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, December 23, 2010

Despite the obvious value of his service to high-paid athletes, none of that is why Andrews is on the HealthLeaders 20 list for 2010. Though he made his money and fame in surgery, in recent years, and as the end of his career approaches, Andrews is spending an awful lot of time, money, and effort on prevention. It's the sort of work that provides a good example for hospitals that are struggling to find ways to integrate prevention into their processes as reimbursement begins to shift away from the fee-for-service model.

"For years we've spent most of our efforts in developing surgical techniques to fix athletic injuries, but we've been neglecting the prevention area," he says. "But prevention is more important than treatment."

Truthfully, this isn't a recent shift for Andrews. He's been working to prevent injuries in youth sports for about 10 years, ever since the founding of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Andrews' adopted hometown of Birmingham, AL. The difference now is, he says, "finally, it seems people are really ready to get involved in prevention of injuries for our young kids."

The problem, he says, is reflected in a five- to sevenfold increase in youth sports injuries since 2000.

"Prevention is common sense if you understand the risk factors, but that education is a massive job," he says. "We'll never prevent all injuries, but it'll take us 10 years to get the injury rates back down where they're acceptable. We're all for sports—they're the greatest thing in the world for our kids—but the motto is to keep kids on the playing field and out of the operating room."

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