Prevent Your High School Athlete From Injury
Teenage and professional athletes are injured at approximately the same rate, but growth patterns make younger athletes more susceptible to certain injuries. We explain the most common adolescent sports injuries, and offer preventative tips.
With the arrival of September and crisp snap of autumn in the air, school is back in session. Millions of children across the country are involved in high school sports. Athletic competition encourages an active lifestyle and can teach valuable life lessons about the importance of teamwork. However, injury is a risk for adolescent as well as professional athletes.
High school and professional athletes experience injury at approximately the same rate, but there’s a difference in the types of injuries that teens suffer. Adolescents are still growing, and their growth is generally uneven. Bones grow first, pulling at the slower-growing muscles and tendons and making young athletes more susceptible to soft tissue and growth plate injuries.
High school sports injuries can cause problems that require surgery in adulthood, and may lead to arthritis in later years. It’s important to understand the two common categories of injuries in young athletes, and to ensure the best outcome by following safe guidelines for returning to competition.
- Acute injuries. These injuries result from trauma caused by a sudden twist, fall, or collision on the field. Examples of acute injuries include bruises, sprains in which a ligament is partially or completely torn, strains involving the partial or complete tear of a muscle or tendon, and bone fractures.
- Overuse injuries. These injuries happen gradually over time when repetitive activities are repeated too often, and the injured area does not have enough time to heal between periods of athletic activity. Overuse injuries can affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and growth plates. Overuse can also cause stress fractures when new bone growth in young athletes isn’t fast enough to replace the sports-related accelerated breakdown of older bone.
Many high school sports injuries can be prevented. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your child enjoys an injury-free sports season.
- Proper conditioning. Make sure your child receives sport specific training that includes regular conditioning before the formal sports season. Injuries often occur when athletes suddenly increase the duration, intensity, or frequency of their activity.
- Proper equipment. From sport-appropriate shoes to safety gear, including helmets, the right equipment can reduce the risk of injury.
- Limit activity to one sport per season. Adolescents who compete as members of multiple teams in a season are particularly at risk for overuse injuries.
- Vary sport participation. Playing one sport year-round increases injury risk. Your child will be less prone to injury if regular breaks and a variety of sports are built into his or her annual activities.
Whenever a high school athlete suffers an acute injury or develops a persistent symptom signaling a possible overuse injury, prompt medical treatment is important. Untreated injuries can carry the risk of permanent damage or disability.
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