With the start of the fall sports season for youth, recreational, and school levels sports, kids today are likely to resume their sport of choice after some time off due to summer break. But more time on the field brings a greater risk of kids experiencing sports-related injuries, including ACL and meniscus injuries in the knee, or injuries to the labrum or UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in the shoulder and elbow. Now, more than ever, concussions are a major injury experienced by athletes at all levels and need to be taken as serious. Injuries have always been part, and will always be a part of youth sports, but there are steps that you and your parents can take to protect yourself from early season injuries. Here are a few easy things that can be done to protect your children from injury:
- GET A PRESEASON SPORTS PHYSICAL: A preseason or back-to-school physical is a great way to determine if your young athlete is fit to play. Sports physicals help assess any areas of concern for athletes before they start an activity, and in turn keeps them from further injuring themselves during play if a condition is present and needs to be treated. Formally, this can be done by your child’s pediatrician, but also by an orthopedic surgeon and/or sports medicine physician. You can also find licensed physical therapist and certified athletic trainers; whose clinics provide sports physicals. Parents need to check to see if the sports organization allows for PT’s/ATC to perform sports physicals, or do they need to be completed by a physician.
- TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN: Make sure your children understands that he or she NEEDS TO TALK with you and/or seek help if experiencing a pain or something that just doesn’t feel right. Some kids are tough and just push through pain, which can lead to a more serious condition that could have been prevented with early intervention. Also, parents need to talk to their children if they suspect an injury or that their child is in pain. This is especially true with concussions. The symptoms may be subtle but could become more serious if not addressed. I a parent does suspect and injury and/or concussion, they should seek medical attention quickly.
- PROMOTE HYDRATION: When fall sports season starts, it can still be very hot and humid out during practice and games. Heat related illness is still a real concern for athletes, especially during hot and humid days. Parents should make sure their children have adequate water before, during and after play, and watch for any signs of a heat-related illness, including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion or fainting. Coaches also need to be trained on the signs of heat exhaustion and take adequate breaks for rest and rehydration.
- MAKE SURE KIDS HAVE ADEQUATE REST: Athletes of all ages need to rest between practices, games and events. A lack of sleep and muscle fatigue predispose an athlete to injury. The most common injuries seen in young athletes are overuse injuries— too many sports and not enough rest. Coaches can help by spacing practices out the week, and resting player during games. Parents can help by having their children get the right amount of sleep throughout the week. If your child is overly tired/exhausted, they will not perform at their highest level, which can lead to injuries. Along these same lines, parents should also plan an offseason for their athlete, giving him or her adequate time to recuperate before the next season.
- PROPER WARM UP AND CONDITIONING: Stretching is an important prevention technique that should become habit for all athletes before starting an activity or sport. Combining a mix of both static and dynamic stretching during warmups, helps loosen the muscles and prepare them for play. Toe touches and stretches, where you hold the position for a certain amount of time, are considered static, while jumping jacks and stretches, where the body continues to move during stretching, are considered dynamic. Practices during the season, should also incorporate conditioning for the younger athlete, and a strength and conditioning program for older athletes. Also, consider preseason strength and conditioning programs, that will prepare the young athlete for the season.
- IF YOU NOTICE AN INJURY SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION ASAP: Any type of injury, especially serious injuries, the parents must seek medical attention as soon as possible. Often time, the parent thinks that all the child needs is rest, and they will be fine. If a child’s injury is ignored, the damage to that area has already progressed, which could have serious consequences on the young athlete. There are often subtle signs that a parent and/or coach needs to be aware when an athlete gets injured. Rubbing or shaking out the affected area, a slight limp when running/walking, or just a slight change in their mechanics such as throwing, or kicking are signs that the athlete could have an injury. They should be immediately pulled from the activity and assessed and seek medical attention.
Millions of youths will be participating in fall sports this year. They will be playing, football, soccer, softball, track and field, and many other sports. All these sports can cause an injury to your child, but good preparation for the sports season could minimize potential injuries. Also, seeking immediate medical attention for your injured child, could promote earlier healing and return to sports.