Back to sports without the sprains: How to prevent adolescent injuries this fall
It won’t be long now before lunches need to be packed, hectic schedules met and our young ones blast through the doors of school once again, and for many kids, this return back to school also means back to sports.
An astounding figure of over 38 million children and adolescents in the U.S. participate in organized sports throughout the year, and that number only appears to be growing. Unfortunately, another shocking figure is the number of sports-related injuries that arise as a result, which is estimated to be 2.6 million.
All sports carry a certain amount of injury risk and those with more contact generally have a higher risk for traumatic (sudden) injury, but for the young athletic population, most injuries are due to overuse. Overuse stems from too much training without enough rest, and can affect growth plates and lead to future abnormalities.
The most common overuse injuries are sprains (to the ligaments, which connect bones together), sprains (to muscles) and stress fractures (to bones), but certain injuries are more prevalent in specific sports. With the upcoming lineup of fall sports, aside from concussions—another major concern—low back pain is common in football, while shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures are the most typical overuse injuries seen in soccer and cross-country.
Though ample rest over the summer is needed and strongly recommended, it may also cause young athletes to not be prepared for an aggressive practice schedule. For these reasons, Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation advises parents and coaches to keep the following pointers in mind to reduce injury risk this fall:
- Aim for a gradual return to sports with some aerobic activity before the season starts so that their bodies are ready to the challenges ahead
- Ensure young athletes are taking at least one day (or two if possible) off completely from any games or practice
- Watch out for signs of overtraining such as fatigue, muscle or joint pain, or poor academic performance; sports shouldn’t get in the way of school
- Implement conditioning exercises during practice to strengthen muscles
- Make warming up and cooling down a necessary part of every practice and game, and be sure to include stretching to increase flexibility
- Ensure that only appropriate, up-to-date gear is used, proper techniques are executed and that athletes are playing by the rules
- Know the signs of a concussion (nausea, dizziness, confusion); if an athlete experiences any of these or an injury, take them out immediately
Preventing youth injuries should be a collaborative effort between parents and coaches, and it begins with being aware of the risk and making necessary changes. Arrow Physical Therapy knows these risks and is skilled in preventing and treating all types of injuries. Call 732-494-0895 to learn more or to schedule an appointment at any of our four locations in Woodbridge, Union, Somerville or Edison, NJ.