Protecting your developing young athlete? Just what the doctor ordered

Dr. James Andrews brings quite a resume to Shreveport Thursday night when the internationally known sports surgeon returns to his home state to educate and inform concerning the development and protection of young athletes, an issue near and dear to his football-playing, pole-vaulting, ligament-repairing heart.  

The one-hour community forum, free and open to the public, begins at 5:30 p.m. at BHP Billiton YMCA, 3455 Knight Street in Shreveport. 

The event is hosted jointly by YMCA Northwest Louisiana (a continuation of its community lecture series) and Ochsner LSU Health; earlier this year, Ochsner Health announced an exclusive five-year partnership with Andrews and the Andrews Institute he co-founded to form the Ochsner Andrews Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Institute.  

This won’t be a one-and-done appearance by Andrews, 80 and a proud son of Claiborne Parish and Homer. 

“The thing I’ll stress most is we have to try to prevent injuries in youth sports,” said Andrews, a vigorous proponent of young athletes playing more than only one sport. “Injuries in youth sports have increased 10-fold since 2000. One of the things I’m most passionate about is getting the message out about injury patterns and what we can do to prevent that. We’ll try to take that message all over the state through Ochsner. I’ve been to all their facilities and I’ll be coming back periodically.”  

Good thing, because this is a subject right in the good doctor’s wheelhouse. Because before he became a certified and trained doctor and surgeon dedicated to injury prevention, education and research in orthopedic and sports medicine … 

before he became one of the most well-known orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine specialists in the world … 

before he operated on top-shelf athletes such as John Smoltz, Drew Brees, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson …  

before he became team doctor for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Tampa Bay Rays, Auburn University Tigers and Washington Redskins … 

before he became a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee in 2008 as the recipient of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award …  

before he was honored with his own bobblehead doll at a Pensacola Blue Wahoos minor league game last summer (I know, right?!) …  

Before all that, he was other things.  

Like a Homer High School Iron Man. 

He and his Pelican teammates captured the imagination of the state in the fall of 1957 when Homer High finished 11-2-1 and state AA runners-up — despite fielding just 18 players. The storied Iron Men. Six of those players went to LSU and played sports other than football, including Andrews, an SEC champion pole vaulter. 

Like his close friend and C.E. Byrd High grad Dr. Billy Bundrick, now retired but for more than 40 years the area’s renowned sports medicine doctor and surgeon — Louisiana Tech’s training room and new softball stadium are named in honor of the former Bulldog football team captain — Andrews knew sports up close. 

“He’s one of the best orthopedic sports medicine doctors ever to come out of Louisiana,” Andrews said of Bundrick. “He was a couple of years ahead of me, and when he put on any sports medicine conference, I was there. He was taking care of Tech when he could barely get over there to do it because of the demand for him from his patients and local teams.  

“He knew how athletes thought, how football players thought,” Andrews said. “That gave us one-upmanship about being a team physician because we were so directly involved in athletics.” 

“Plus,” Bundrick said, “James was like I was: we were both just eaten up with it.” 

They do love it. 

“It’s what we were put on Earth to do,” Bundrick said.  

So, concerning your children, it’s not a waste of time to listen to nearly 100 years of celebrated sports medicine practice talking when both Andrews and Bundrick, Dr. A and Dr. B, warn of the serious issues confronting young athletes. 

“We (parents and coaches) have to start paying better attention,” Bundrick said.  

Andrews’ goal through Ochsner is to preach the S.T.O.P/Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention program and to stress the need for the state to adopt sports injury accreditation programs for youth coaches. 

“We’re going to get our athletic trainers around here up to date about what we’re doing,” Andrews said. “Trainers are our first responders when it comes to athletic injuries. We’ll have programs for players and coaches and parents to attend. That’s the main message: we’re going to learn how to keep from getting hurt at a young age.” 

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