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Coaches 'cause rise in injuries'

A leading sports injury expert has warned that irresponsible coaches are pushing young athletes "to the brink" and contributing to a rise in injuries.

Vel Sakthivel, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, said the pressure on budding youngsters to perform through the pain barrier is especially of concern among under-16s.

The problem could get even worse with the London Olympics just around the corner, with more young people expected to take up sport, he explained

"We are seeing an increase in the number of sports injuries in children each year, ranging from serious ligament damage and fractures, to strains and sprains, and the pressure applied by coaches is to blame on many occasions," he said.

"Kids are told if they want to make it big they need to put up with the aches, pain and niggling injuries - almost a 'toughen you up' culture - and that is driving many to the brink of serious damage to their bodies."

Mr Sakthivel, who recently launched a dedicated paediatric sports injury clinic at the hospital, claimed he had seen irresponsible behaviour displayed by some coaches in his own treatment room.

"I have encountered coaches who attend consultations with children and tell me injuries are not possible on equipment such as trampolines because they have a soft surface, and patients who come to me and say their coaches have urged them to continue despite complaints of pain.

"I also often see many who aren't educated on the need for moderation and it worries me that some coaches at very competitive levels show a lack of understanding of the implication of injury to the growing body.

"The benefits of strenuous sporting activities should be balanced against children's health needs and professional coaches need to be aware of that."

Mr Sakthivel said he did not want to deter children from participating in sporting activity but he urged parents and children to be cautious and have realistic expectations.

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