Expert Available: Denver Surgeon Operates on High School Athlete with Compartment Syndrome

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Compartment syndrome is a rare but serious disorder that can cause permanent muscle damage. Dr. Edmund Rowland of Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center urges athletes, parents and coaches to understand the risk factors.

There seems to be several contributing factors, including overexerting and being dehydrated. Experts are divided over the role creatine plays, but young athletes need to be very careful. - Dr. Edmund Rowland

On the heels of compartment syndrome landing nearly an entire Oregon high school football team in the hospital, a local high school wrestler has been treated recently for the disorder and is expected to make a full recovery.

Dr. Edmund Rowland, a hand and trauma surgeon with Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center in Golden, Colo., treated the wrestler. He said while compartment syndrome is extremely rare in young athletes, it is important for athletes, parents and coaches to understand the risk factors.

Compartment syndrome is a painful condition that occurs when pressure within the muscles builds to dangerous levels. This pressure can decrease blood flow, which prevents nourishment and oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells. Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency and without treatment, it can lead to permanent muscle damage.

Compartment syndrome is usually caused by a severe injury, such as a serious car accident. However, with both the Oregon football players and the local wrestler, it appears there were several contributing factors, including intense exertion of one muscle group, coupled with heat and unrecognized dehydration. A seemingly benign over-the-counter muscle-building supplement called creatine may have also played a role.

“There seems to be several contributing factors, including overexerting and being dehydrated,” Rowland said. “Experts are divided over the role creatine plays, but young athletes need to be very careful about using what seems to be a benign, easily available and legal muscle-building supplement.”

Compartment syndrome is one of many injuries that can result from overuse. Parents and coaches can help spot injuries using the following tips from Panorama Orthopedics and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine:

  •     Listen for complaints of pain in an overused area. Athletes may not notice the pain until using the affected area when resting or sometime after practice or a game.
  •     Once you have determined that an area is causing pain, look for tenderness and/or swelling over the injured area. If the athlete cannot move a joint fully or there is excruciating pain and significant swelling, it is important to seek medical care immediately.
  •     Keep the lines of communication open among athletes, parents and coaches.

About Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center
Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center, PC has three locations in the Denver Metro area. The Golden office houses an ambulatory surgery center, physical therapy and an MRI imaging center to provide full service coverage of orthopedic needs. The clinic treats a full spectrum of patients with orthopedic problems and includes specialists in sports medicine, joint replacement, spine, trauma, hand, and foot and ankle. For more information, please visit the clinic’s website at http://www.panoramaortho.com.

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