CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dear Cindy,
My son has decided to play football. He played midget football, but now that he is entering high school I worry that the chance for injuries is higher. The other day I read about boys hospitalized for compartment syndrome because they had taken creatine, which many athletes take. I am torn between wanting to support his dreams and wanting to protect my son from harm. Any advice? Also, can you tell me more about compartment syndrome? -- Tina
Thank you for asking about something that must be on the mind of many parents.
It is true that as many as 30 high school football players in Oregon, complaining of triceps pain, were examined for what appeared to be compartment syndrome following an intense practice. A serious injury, compartment syndrome affects the body's soft tissue. Was it creatine? No. This legal supplement is simply protein in powder form, which actually hydrates muscles rather than dehydrates them.
Rather than blame a substance that no one took and could not cause this ailment, let's look at the causes of compartment syndrome.
Compartment syndrome occurs when pressure builds up in the compartments where muscle, blood vessels and nerves intersect. When this happens, blood cannot circulate to the muscles and nerves to supply them with oxygen and nutrients. As a result, they begin to die. Unfortunately, limbs are threatened because the muscle and nerve damage constricts blood flow. Just as frightening is the possibility of kidney damage.
Why? The Mayo Clinic says the condition is often induced by strenuous exercise -- in particular, repetitive exercise that works the same muscles over and over. Heat and dehydration play a huge role as well. While medications and infection can also be associated with compartment syndrome in isolated cases, this is certainly unrelated to the healthy high school boys who were in football practice in Oregon.
Compartment syndrome is often diagnosed by its symptom known as the Five P's. They are pain, pressure, paresthesia (numbness), pressure and pulselessness. It is a very rare diagnosis with 14 of the 30 players requiring hospitalization and three actually needing surgery for treatment. So rare, in fact, it made national news and set off an alarm to parents and coaches everywhere.