Dear Mayo Clinic: I am a middle school athletic director, and the new school year is approaching. I expect to see an increase in sports related injuries from soccer, soccer, cheerleading, soccer and other activities. Young athletes suffer from bumps and bruises, but how can they avoid injuries? Any advice on how long they should sit before getting back on the field or in the game?
Answer: Sports is a great opportunity for young people. Sport provides not only physical health benefits, but also social, emotional, mental and educational benefits. When comparing those who participate in youth sports with those who do not, young athletes have lower rates of anxiety and depression, improved self-esteem, lower substance abuse, improved life skills, higher academic achievements, and overall quality of life.
However, participating in sports comes with potential risks, including injury. Young athletes suffer various injuries because they are still developing and are more susceptible to injury. Some sports come with a common injury risk, but an injury can occur in almost any activity.
Types of injuries include traumatic injuries and overuse injuries.
Traumatic injuries are usually sudden and caused by a sprain, fall, or collision. These injuries usually occur when the player interacts with the sports environment. Common examples include bone fractures, ligament sprains, muscle and tendon strains, and skin cuts or abrasions. Other injuries, such as concussions or those affecting other organ systems, are less common.
Traumatic injuries are difficult to avoid. For example, some sports, such as football, have many intentional collisions in each game, which increases the risk of injury. Soccer has fewer collisions, but still has a high potential for parts of the body to be bumped or sprained. This means that athletes are prone to injuries to the lower extremities, head and neck.
Sometimes these injuries occur just by stepping or running on an uneven surface. Other sports, such as running, cheerleading, and dancing, do not suffer the same amount of traumatic injuries. But they do have risks of falling and breaking bones.
Some strategies that may be considered to reduce the risk of a traumatic injury include:
Certain movement patterns or weakness can increase the risk of injury. Screening tools can look at movement patterns and try to predict your risk of injury. Programs look to prevent injuries. For example, many programs look to prevent an ACL rupture. A sports medicine professional can direct you to resources for screening and prevention. Also, consider injury prevention programs in community hospitals and health care institutions.
Many sports contain equipment such as helmets, mouthguards, eye protection, pads, braces, and guards. This device is designed to protect athletes from injury. If not worn properly, this equipment is often ineffective. School athletic coaches, medical professionals, or league officials can help with the appropriate resources.
Many sports have rules to protect young athletes from injury, including those that prohibit javelin in soccer or illegal hockey scoring. Following the rules and promoting changes to safety rules can reduce the risk of injury.
Even a simple ankle sprain if not properly rehabilitated can become a problem. It is important that the injured athlete works with someone who has knowledge of injury rehabilitation before returning to play. It has been proven that injuries to one part of the body can increase the risk of injury to other parts of the body, so be careful and watch out for injuries and make sure to return to sports safely. Look for a professional with athletic experience.
Overuse injuries occur gradually over time, often when a particular movement or pressure is repeatedly placed on certain structures of the body. This, combined with inadequate rest and recovery, leads to injury. Some examples of this include stress fractures; Tendonitis and tendinopathy. and apophysis, which is a stress injury to the growth centers of the bones.
Like traumatic injuries, some sports pose a higher risk of developing some injuries from over-exercising than others. Runners have a higher risk of overuse of the lower extremities, and tennis players, swimmers, and baseball players have a higher risk of overuse of the upper extremities. Overuse injuries are preventable, as they are usually the result of training errors, excessive load or stress on a particular part of the body.
Some strategies that can be considered to reduce the risk of injuries from overuse include:
A rapid escalation of training or a sudden change in the type of training can be a risk factor for some injuries. The tissues have not had time to accommodate the new requirements and are at risk of infection. Gradual training several weeks before the season can prepare student-athletes for the higher demands of the season.
Inadequate energy and hydration are risk factors for infection. For example, in a cross-country race or dance, athletes expend high energy while consuming relatively less energy. This increases the risk of injury, especially stress fractures.
Inadequate rest or excessive training increases the risk of injury. Too much is not always good. Those who participate in sports year-round, or every day of the week, have a higher risk of injury, compared to those who have breaks.
There is a difference between pain and injury. However, most pains such as muscle soreness should improve with time or with rest. Persistent pain is evidence on the body of a more worrisome injury. Student-athletes may be reluctant to come forward and mention concerns, so it is always helpful to talk to young people and encourage them to say something if they are OK.
Despite every effort to reduce the risk, injury can still occur.
Differentiating between pain and injury can be tricky, but consider these tips, treatment recommendations, and guidelines for determining when student-athletes can return to the field:
Medical evaluation is necessary for injury if:
The pain is very severe, does not improve with rest or gets worse over time with activity.
The injury causes loss of function, such as the inability to walk, throw, or move part of the entire body.
Injuries show obvious deformity or significant swelling.
Injuries lead to loss of enjoyment of the sport or the inability to continue training.
After infection, follow these initial steps:
Rest and avoid painful activity. It is important to allow the tissues to heal.
Use ice, elevation, compression, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications if needed to control pain and reduce swelling and inflammation.
Every injury and athlete will be different, and I always recommend following the advice of a medical professional. However, before athletes return to play, they should feel little or no pain; Full range of motion back to full strength; And most importantly, to be able to safely perform specific activities and meet the requirements of the sport. I also tell my patients: When in doubt, sit down.
Sports can bring many benefits to young athletes. With proper training, reminders and coaching, we hope this school year will lead to fewer injuries. If you have students with significant problems, consider referring them to a sports medicine practice to help with recovery and personal development.
Dr. David Soma, Pediatric, Adolescent and Sports Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
Media contact: Rhoda Madson, Mayo Clinic Communications, [email protected]