Kids are getting involved in organized sports at a younger age. In the U.S., approximately 30 million children participate in some form of organized sport annually with 3.5 million kids sustaining a sports related injury.
Sports participation offers a host of benefits including exercise, healthy competition, team building skills, and skill development with a goal to stay in the game. Since young athletes are specializing in sports and even specializing in skilled positions at an early age, injury prevention, recognition and treatment are essential.
“It is important to recognize that injury in a young athlete is not the same as an injury in an adult,” explained Heidi Irlbeck, Redwood Area Hospital physical therapist and certified athletic trainer. “There are many injuries that we see as athletic trainers on the sideline that range from acute injuries to chronic, overuse injuries.”
Common sports injuries
While sprains and strains are the most common sports-related injuries, there are others that can be life-threatening, such as concussions, heat-related illness and cardiac-related issues. Having a plan in place for immediate care makes a difference.
Acute injuries are the result of a single, traumatic event. Examples include sprains, fractures, torn ligaments, eye injuries, concussions and spinal cord injuries. Contact sports such as football or basketball may spring to mind, but baseball players may also suffer acute injuries from high-speed balls, mid-field collisions and improper sliding.
Overuse injuries occur due to repetitive activity or trauma over time affecting tendons, muscles, joints and other tissues. Overuse injuries can also occur from mechanical errors, and imbalances between strength and flexibility. Repetitive stress can be a problem at any age, but it can be more troublesome in children whose bone growth may be hampered.
“Overuse injuries are becoming more prevalent due to specialization,” explains Karli Perrson, Redwood Area Hospital certified athletic trainer. “Playing multiple sports allows the certain muscles to go from the primary mover to a stabilizing muscle which allows them to get the proper rest they need to prevent those overuse injuries.”
Reinjury can happen if a child returns to a sport before he or she has properly healed from an injury. Letting the body fully recover from an injury is essential. Otherwise the child may be placing extra stress on the injury and forcing the body to compensate for the weakness, which can lead to another injury.
“Nutrition and hydration play a big role in assisting the prevention and healing of injuries, said Perrson. “Without the proper protein, carbohydrate, and water intake, injuries are more prone to occur.”
Treat it right
We are fortunate to have a team of professionals from athletic trainers to physical and occupational therapists, orthopedic specialists and family medicine providers that can work closely together to keep our athletes in the game or return to sport safely.
Athletic training and sports medicine services are continually working towards safer sports practices to include injury prevention and training practices to provide a safer environment for our youth to compete. Redwood Area Hospital’s rehabilitation department holds value in continuing to be a resource for our area coaches.
Since sports are starting at such a young age, it is important to understand skill and development and enforce correct technique. Addressing training errors can help reduce the chance of injury. Proper equipment fitting is another aspect that our athletic trainers can assist as well. The rehab team can assess functional movement patterns and address if there is an imbalance of strength or flexibility.
For more information contact Redwood Area Hospital’s rehabilitation department at 507-637-4606.