Many student athletes begin preparing for sports season long before it's time to start hitting the books. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 7.3 million teenagers participate in high school sports. Sports participation is an excellent way for young adults and teenagers to stay healthy and active, but as more young athletes get in the game, physicians across the country are observing an upswing in sports-related injuries. High school athletes suffer an estimated two million injuries annually resulting in 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations. Injury has potential to not only ruin an athlete's season, but in some cases cause long lasting problems. While not every injury can be avoided, Northwestern Medicine® sports medicine expert Michael Terry, MD, encourages student athletes and their parents to focus on safe play and proper training for a healthy, successful sports season.
Preparation for the fall sports season should begin even before the start of the school year. Young athletes should ease into training, starting with cardiovascular workouts to build stamina then progressing to strength training that targets the specific muscles needed for their sport.
When in training, young athletes should focus on three major factors that affect sport performance: hydration, nutrition, and rest. With practice for many fall sports beginning in the summer, hydration takes on even greater importance. When practicing or competing in the heat, drink water before, during and after activity to decrease the risk of heat-related illness. Unhealthy food choices and too little rest also make student athletes more prone to injury.
Sports safety should be observed during both competition and practice as injuries can occur at anytime. Generally, two types of sports-related injuries occur: acute and overuse. Acute injuries occur from a single traumatic event, such as a collision with another athlete or a misstep that strains a ligament or muscle. Examples of acute injuries are fractures, concussions, sprains and strains, dislocations or tears. While acute injuries are often harder to avoid, particularly in contact sports, teaching proper technique and emphasizing safe play can limit the risk of injury. Properly caring for equipment and assuring it works and fits correctly can also help avoid injury.
Unlike acute injuries, overuse injuries develop slowly overtime because of repetitive stress on tendons, muscles, bones or joints. Examples of overuse injuries are Little League elbow, runner's knee, shin splints and tendinitis. Often hard to recognize because athletes dismiss the early signs as minor aches and pains, when not treated properly overuse injuries run the risk of benching young athletes as well as causing long-term damage and diminished quality of life. Overuse injuries are commonly caused by improper training and not allowing the body time to properly rest and recover. Trying a different, less intense sport once a season ends, will help overused muscles recover.
Even when conscious of proper conditioning and safe training, most competitive athletes will experience an injury at some point. Recognizing the signs of an injury and listening to one's body will help limit damage and hasten recover. Pain is the body's way of signaling that something is wrong, but many athletes ignore their pain attributing it as a normal part of sports participation. When athletes dismiss injuries, not only does it threaten ending their season but also future ones.
Source: Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Published with permission from RISMedia.