Before we know it, high schools across the country will be kicking off fall sports tryouts, workouts, and practices. Although the lazy days of summer are still underway, students soon must ramp up quickly to ready themselves for competitive match-ups and rivalries in all fall athletics. These include those that produce some of the higher injury rates in scholastic sports, namely football, field hockey, soccer and cross country. This dangerous combination of de-conditioning coupled with the short preseason of fall athletics can be a recipe for many injuries.
According to the CDC, high school athletes account for an estimated two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year. Not only are youth athletes injuring themselves playing sports more often, but the types of injuries and the magnitude of injuries that we are seeing have changed – for the worse. More youth athletes are suffering from injuries that previously would have only been seen in professional level athletes. Overuse and serious acute injuries are becoming more common. As the intensity and demands of youth sports continue to rise, young athletes are more vulnerable than ever to these types of injuries.
There are some simple steps that youth athletes, as well as their parents and coaches, can take to help minimize sports injuries. Pre-participation physicals, a requirement of most school athletic programs, are an important first step and evaluating a child’s health eligibility to play competitive sports. Most common overuse injuries result from the sudden increase of activity in intensity and/or duration. Cross-training and fitness training during the off-season help the body become acclimated to vigorous athletic activity which can effectually minimize the stress on the body at the start of a season. Youth athletes are especially vulnerable to serious head injuries, so proper testing and healing after an injury can help ensure a player’s safe return to sports following a concussion.
Once an athlete is engaged in competitive play, careful stretching and cool-down should be a regular part of the game-day routine. With every sport, correct form and technique should be taught, encouraged and reiterated to youth athletes. Proper hitting form and techniques, core strength and body positioning will help reduce the likelihood of an overuse or traumatic injury. Coaches and parents should make sure that their athletes are properly fitted with uniforms, pads and helmets. Athletes should speak regularly with a certified athletic trainer or sports medicine physician if they or their parents have any concerns about injuries or injury prevention before beginning any fitness program.
Sports injuries are an increasing concern with youth sports in this country. But by educating our youth and their families we can all help to make this season a safe and fun one!