An Ounce of Prevention
Jul 20, 2015 09:19AM
Is summer passes away, many athletes have already begun training for the upcoming sports seasons. Training and conditioning prior to sport activities helps athletes excel. They become faster, stronger and better conditioned. This early training is concentrated on their specific sport needs and preparing them for opponents they will be facing. One of the most important reasons athletes need to train prior to their regular sport training is often forgotten… injury prevention!
All athletes desire to be better than what they were yesterday and to be better than their opponents. They want to run faster, be stronger, out endure and out class their opposition. But you can’t beat your opponent if you are injured and not in the field of play. So what should your young athlete do to try to prevent acute and overuse injuries? What should they do if they get hurt?
I hear it again and again during the sports physicals I perform for student athletes. During my sport physicals at the end of summer and prior to football practice, young athletes come in with a big problem. They have been out of school all summer, playing video games, sleeping until 10:30 in the morning, going on vacation and working summer jobs. They are now out of shape! One of the most common reasons athletes get hurt in sports is because of deconditioning. This can lead to overuse repetitive injuries, as you can imagine, but can also lead to acute injuries and even concussions. Let me explain.
An athlete starts to understand ways they can be very effective in their sport while also preserving their health (i.e. making tackles in football with your head up, getting across the opponent’s body). This takes timing, speed, skill and muscle memory to perform subconsciously. When the body and the brain start to fatigue they get “sloppy.” Muscle memory, strength and speed begin to wane and the “path of least resistance” or inappropriate techniques begin to take over. This same football player gets fatigued during early practice or in early games of the season and has a breakdown in technique. When the fatigued athlete takes on a tackle with improper technique it can result in a closed head injury, neck injury or torn rotator cuff. Being “in shape” prior to starting your sport is essential for not only excelling, but also in avoiding injury.
Even if your young athlete has stayed in shape and used perfect technique, sports injuries can still happen. Statistics show that the percentages of injuries are up (especially in baseball and softball for shoulder and elbow injuries). What should you do if your child has an injury? First, if any injury seems severe - loss of consciousness, confusion, suspected fracture, inability to bear weight or move the injured region - consider a visit to the closest ER. Secondly, someone needs to make sure the trainer knows. If your school does not have a trainer then let the coach know. The team trainer or supervisor should follow the necessary plan of action such as assessing the injury and/or pulling the athlete from play for a more complete physical assessment. There are times an athlete may continue to play, or may need RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) or more thorough treatment to get them back to their sport safely.
One trouble area is the ankle sprain. Sometimes athletes with moderate or even severe ankle sprains or strains will be allowed back to the sport when pain levels are tolerable and the ankle has been wrapped. Have you ever heard of an athlete rolling their ankle and returning to playing their sport the same week with heavy wraps and some ice therapy? Yeah, so have I. Have you also heard the number of times they have continued to roll that ankle? Yeah, so have I. Proper treatment for ankle sprains and strains for athletes is not to simply return when the pain is tolerable or wrapping the ankle into numb submission. It requires ankle rehab, physical therapy, range of motion assessment for the ankle; calf and soleus stretching and gait analysis to ensure proper healing and mechanics are regained. If proper procedures are not followed, that gel pack in the freezer is going to get some good use.
Lastly, if you think your child is not receiving complete care for their injury then go to a healthcare provider. Usually, someone who specializes in the musculoskeletal system most effectively treats musculoskeletal conditions. If you suspect a possible concussion and the ER has released the child, a follow up with your pediatrician will help in some of the assessment of recovery time and possible referral to other specialists.
· Some general injury prevention exercises can include:
· Hamstring stretching
· Glute and Figure 4 stretches
· Single leg bridges
· Foam rolling the back, IT bands, quads and glutes
· Stretching the soleus muscle
· Single leg hopping (up, down, left and right)
Watching your children play sports is something very special. It can also be nerve racking. Parents can help their children by asking them about their conditioning and their training program prior to their season beginning. Make sure you ask about their injuries. Where and when do they hurt? What treatment is being performed for them at school? Are they getting better? If you are not comfortable with any of the answers or not sure what to do, then seek advice from a healthcare provider. While many injuries seem mild now, they can turn into bigger problems later.
Written by Clint Dacus, DC. Clint is the owner of True Balance Chiropractic & Physical Therapy at 2771 E. Broad St., Ste. 211 in Mansfield. Contact him at 682-518-6263.
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