Monday, August 24, 2009
Play SafeSummer is starting to wind down, and for many parents with school-aged children, the change of seasons isn’t just stressful because of back-to-school shopping, but rather because of impending fall sports try-outs. Fall sports, including football, cheerleading, soccer, field hockey and volleyball are among the most common activities for American youth, but these sports may not always be all fun and games. With the growing cost of college tuition, many children are vigourously engaging in these activities at a young age and recent findings show that incorrect technique, equipment and/or coaching style can lead to serious injuries such as shoulder tears, herniated disks and even paralysis.
In fact, according to a recent study completed by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research injuries from fall sports, especially cheerleading, are the highest they have been in years and the results of sports injuries are among the most devastating.
Furthermore, even if you child isn’t participating in a fall sport this year, there is also a safety worry in the classroom! In order to combat the rising number of cases of childhood obesity, many schools are now enforcing a more vigorous physical education program, in turn leading to greater opportunities for injury. Recent findings from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital of Columbus, OH, show that gym class injuries increased 150% over the past ten years. The study also notes a national estimate of nearly 37,000 annual injuries on average, with fewer than 30,000 in 1997 and climbing to more than 60,000 injuries a year by 2007.
Sports physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons are taking note and spending more time discussing with parents, coaches and young athletes how to better prepare themselves in order to prevent severe injury. Below, renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr Eric A. Crone of the Gramercy Surgery Center and NY Ortho, Sports Medicine & Trauma Center, both in New York City, offers his advice on how help children, athletes and pupils steer clear of the doctor’s office this fall.
Sample Talking Points:
• Physical Examination: Before participating in any sports activities or rigorous physical education program, children should under-go a yearly physical examination provided by their family physician. The family doctor may be able to detect any possible bone, joint or muscle problems early on, so not to lead to a greater chance for injury later
• Physical Condition: Often I see young athletes come to see me with injuries that occurred because there muscles or stamina simply was not up to speed with the activity they were performing. Especially when entering the fall sports season, young athletes are often un-prepared for vigorous work-outs after not properly training their bodies
over the summer. Coaches and teachers should offer their students daily work-out routines prior to tryouts so that they can come to their first day of practice prepared
• Proper Equipment: No matter what the activity, athletes must be provided with the correct equipment needed for their sports. Many of my patients come to me with injuries that resulted from improper gear (helmets, padding, sneakers) and or damaged equipment
• Stretching: Often coaches and teachers do not enforce or provide adequate stretching time before and after physical activity, which can in turn be detrimental to young athletes. Un-stretched muscles have a greater chance to be pulled as lactic acid builds up during physical activity as after physical activity is completed. Athletes must stretch prior to and after every practice, class or game in order to ensure that the correct warm-up and cool-down of the muscles occurs
• Technique: In my practice, improper technique is the leading cause of devastating sport’s related injuries. If children learn from an early age the wrong way to tackle, jump, kick or swing the pattern is embedded in muscle memory and hard to correct, which in the long run can cause serious injury
• Nutrition: Now that school has begun again, parents cannot always monitor a child’s food intake at all times, but proper nutrition is still a vital component when preventing sport’s injuries
• Rest: With the fall being a relatively short season, allowing a limited amount of time for pre-season training, young athletes will push themselves to meet the practice demands of their coaches and trainers. I always remind coaches and parents to offer their young athletes enough time for rest and recuperation, which give their muscles time to heal and ultimately make them stronger
• Treatment: Remember although your child may simply be sore from over-exertion, a small ache or pain could result in a larger problem down the road. If your child has on-going pain that does not go suppress over time, make sure to consult a sports medicine trainer or sports orthopedic surgeon for proper diagnosis