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Gruesome Injury Leads Community to Examine Cause/Effect in Youth Sports

16 Oct, 2019

By: Michael Popke

Call it an object lesson for event owners and rights holders.

Devyn Schmeling, a three-sport high school athlete, knew something was wrong the moment she landed awkwardly on her ankle during a summer league basketball game at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in June.

“I went down to the floor, and my foot was just dangling there. I started screaming, because I couldn’t feel anything,” she recently told the La Crosse Tribune, which reported that the sophomore at Onalaska (Wis.) High School suffered two broken bones, a high ankle sprain and detached ligaments — one of the more gruesome leg injuries local doctors have seen.

At least one physician — Paul Molling, who works in family medicine for Mayo Clinic Health System in Onalaska — thinks the injury could have been prevented.

“It’s hard to look back like that at an injury,” he told the newspaper. “But Devyn was doing 10 hours of activity, wearing herself down mentally and physically. And when you do that, your body doesn’t respond as if it were fresh. I remember going home that night and thinking, ‘What are we doing wrong with our kids?’”

In an effort to do something right for them, Molling spearheaded a partnership between the Mayo Clinic and UW-La Crosse that resulted in a free Youth Sports Safety Symposium earlier this month. Expected to be held annually, the event brought sports medicine professionals, athletes, parents and coaches together to better understand how to help young athletes reach their potential and limit the risk of injuries.

Highlights included presentations from a sports medicine physician, a sports scientist, an athletic trainer and a collegiate coach. Emphasis will be on placed on current trends in youth sports pertaining to overtraining, injuries, nutritional strategies and competing at the next level.

“I really wonder if fatigue played a role [in Devyn’s injury],” said Shane Schmeling, Devyn’s father and the Onalaska High School girls’ basketball coach. “If she’d been fresher, maybe she would have landed with more stability and only sprained her ankle. We spend so much time teaching basketball skills — how to play — but we don’t teach nutrition or sleeping patterns or injury prevention. I don’t think we’re looking out for what’s best for our kids, and as a basketball coach, I’m as guilty as anyone.”

As for Devyn Schmeling, she’s in the midst of intensive physical therapy, after which she’ll need to relearn to run. She’s expected to be close to 100 percent by early next year, according to the Tribune.

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