As a physical therapist and a father of 4, I’m a little more keen and aware of the potential for injuries in our youth, especially kids participating in sports. Sports can be outstanding activities for our kids as they teach them sportsmanship, teamwork, fitness, and most of all sports should be fun for them. We all know sports can carry an inherent risk for injury and that is the last thing any parent wants to see his or her child suffer from. As a physical therapist, I’m well aware that many aches, pains, and injuries can be prevented or at least the risk can be minimized. I try to educate clients and parents that we may never fully prevent that dreaded ACL tear but with proper training, conditioning, and education we can reduce that risk.
Let’s talk about the most common sports related injuries we see in our clinics. The first type of injuries are sprains and strains.
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, one of the bands of tough, fibrous tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint and prevents excessive movement of the joint. An ankle sprain is the most common athletic injury we usually see among our young athletes.
A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon. A muscle is a tissue composed of bundles of specialized cells that contract and produce movement. A tendon is a tough, fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. Muscles in any part of the body can be injured. Common strains we encounter involve the hamstrings in the lower extremities and the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder.
Another very common type of injury is a repetitive use injury. Painful injuries such as stress fractures and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) can occur from overuse of muscles and tendons. Some of these injuries don’t always show up on x-rays, but they do cause pain and discomfort. These types of injuries usually indicate the athlete is overworking a particular structure of their body and not allowed ample rest, recovery and/or rehabilitation .
Tips for Injury Prevention:
The first tip I recommend is consulting with a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy who has a background in musculoskeletal and sports injuries. A skilled Physical Therapist can provide an evaluation or screening to determine if your child could be at risk or predisposed to certain injuries by assessing his or her flexibility, mobility, strength, and balance. If the Physical Therapist finds an imbalance or an issue, he or she could recommend exercises or stretches to reduce the chance of certain injuries before they occur.
The next tip is to encourage your athlete to take off 2-3 months per year from a particular sport. Some athletes will participate in the same sport on multiple teams close to 12 months out of the year without rest, and this often leads to the sprains, strains, and overuse injuries we treat in our clinic. This can include taking 2-3 months off from one sport to participate in another. (ie. Playing baseball April-October, then basketball November-July).
Another tip is to encourage your child to try to take at least 1 to 2 days off per week from competitive athletics, sport-specific training, and competitive practice (scrimmages) to allow time for both physical and psychological recovery. Kids, like adults, need a day or two to just rest. Just like adults need 1 or 2 days off from work, kids require the same to avoid burnout and overuse injuries.
Similar to the previous tip, another recommendation is to watch out for signs of burnout; If your child complains of non-specific muscle or joint pain or fatigue, he or she may be experiencing burnout and sitting down for a heart-to-heart talk about their sports participation may be appropriate. Burnout left unchecked may lead to the overuse injuries previously discussed in this article.
When it comes down to it, no parent wants to see his or her child suffer an injury or become burned out from a sport they enjoy. We also want to see them grow healthy, have fun, and enjoy their childhood. By following a few of these tips we can all give our kids the best chance of that happening.
If you believe your child is suffering from a sports related injury or would like a pre-season screening from an expert Physical Therapist contact one of our offices for a free consultation with one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy.
Dr. Kress practices out of the Herkimer Function Better PT office and can be reached by email at Kevin@functionbetter.com or 315-717-0020
Post Author: Dr. Kevin M. Kress PT, DPT