Any Given Monday

Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them, for Athletes, Parents, and Coaches, Dr. James R. Andrews with Don Yaeger, Scribner.

“Any Given Monday” had the potential to be a very compelling book. After all, Dr. James R. Andrews is America’s most famous practitioner of sports medicine, a surgeon who has evaluated and treated the injuries of countless big-name professional athletes, including the likes of Bo Jackson, Brett Favre, Albert Pujols, Jack Nicklaus, Emmitt Smith, and both Peyton and Eli Manning, to name but a few. But instead of “a life in sports medicine,” the reader gets a bland reference guide that itemizes the health concerns presented by twenty-five of the most popular youth sports — and suggestions for how to prevent the most common injuries in each.

It’s a noble endeavor to try to shift the focus of sports medicine from treatment to prevention, but it doesn’t make for an interesting book. Anyone even vaguely familiar with Dr. Andrews’ background would no doubt want to read about how sports medicine has evolved over the course of his forty-year career, not to mention his personal experiences — on the sidelines and in the operating room. Of course, such an approach would present its own challenges (namely, honoring patient confidentiality), but I believe his experiences and challenges could be related without revealing identities.

As it is, the most interesting chapter in the book focuses on “debunking a few myths,” including the notion that so-called Tommy John surgery can improve pitching performance. Another is the old adage, “No pain, No gain.” A third is the idea that “the earlier a child begins a sport and the more he or she practices, the better the chances for a scholarship or professional career.” Extreme specialization or professionalism leads to burnout, says Dr. Andrews. Or worse, traumatic or overuse injuries that can haunt an individual for life.

I suppose relatively unenlightened parents and coaches could use the information imparted in “Any Given Monday.” But for Yaeger and Andrews the book represents a missed opportunity to create a unique work of sports literature, while imparting many of the same lessons along the way.