Injuries in youth athletics are on the rise, involving almost all sports. Injuries suffered can be categorized into over-use and traumatic type. Contact sports obviously raise the risk of traumatic events such as joint and ligament sprains, soft tissue contusions, and broken bones, however many injuries do not fall into this category and must be managed quite differently.
Over-use injuries, as the name implies, are the result of repetitive stress that the body can no longer manage. Some of these injuries include tendinitis, tendinosis, bursitis, chronic muscle strains, stress reactions and stress fractures.
What are the causes for over-use injuries?
Kids of all ages are playing longer seasons, sometimes even year-round, as well as multi-sports. This, combined with the fact that most are going through growth patterns, can lead to rather serious biomechanical imbalances that result in a painful injury.
What are biomechanical imbalances?
Each sport requires unique demands on the joints and muscles of the body. As young athletes develop, often their bone growth is much faster than their muscular development. This can leave them susceptible to over-use injuries. In addition, the repetitive nature of many sports over-develops some muscles while other key muscles are undertrained. When this occurs it throws off the normal or ideal mechanics that keep the body healthy.
Is rest from the sport the only solution to over-use injuries?
No. Rest may help however it does not address the underlying imbalances that are the true root-cause of the injury. Think about a car that has a bent frame that results in excessive wear on a tire. Parking it in the garage for six weeks prevents further balding of the tire, but as soon as you begin driving it again the problem has obviously not been fixed. This is why we suggest fixing the root-causes of over-use injuries and not just treating the symptoms.
Should young athletes have extended breaks from their sports activities?
Yes. Research shows that young athletes playing sports year round are more susceptible to injuries than those who have rest periods. Advice on how long this break should be varies from perhaps a month to several months. Athletes playing only one sport year round need a longer break than those playing several different sports where the biomechanical stresses are varied.
Can over-use injuries be prevented?
Absolutely. Sports sciences have studied every sport and have identified key strength, flexibility, balance and mechanics that allow an athlete to remain pain free. Injury prevention programs are becoming a common part of sports participation, and these programs focus on those components.
What should be done if an athlete suffers an injury?
It is not unusual for athletes to have some pain and soreness with their training, however pain that is persisting needs attention. Get a clear diagnosis by a sports medicine specialist or physical therapist. There should be a clear treatment plan addressing their continued participation vs. modified activities, and they should go through a thorough physical therapy evaluation to identify imbalances that are contributing to the injury.
For more information on Rebound’s Ready, Set, Go (injury prevention) program, call 970.663.6142