Every year, more than 38 million youths engage in organized sports in the U.S., while many more take part in various informal recreational activities. While taking part in sports offers a wide range of health and social benefits, it can also lead to injuries. Some can be mild, but some can be severe with long-term repercussions, which is why preventing injuries in youth sports is so important. Read on for some of the more common injuries and how to prevent them.
Sprains, Strains and Growth Plate Injuries
When a ligament is injured, it is referred to as a sprain. Ligaments are the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones at the joint and prevent it from moving too much.
Strains involve the injury of muscles or tendons. Muscles are tissues comprised of bundles of special cells that contract and allow us to move, while tendons are fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones.
Growth plates are areas at the end of long bones where tissues are still developing. Once development is finished, the growth plate is replaced with solid bone. These plates can be found in the hand and fingers, in the forearm, in the upper and lower leg and in the foot. If any of these areas are injured, professional medical help should be sought immediately.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Repetitive motion injuries can be varied and include stress fractures and tendinitis. One commonality among these injuries is they are all very painful.
Placing a bone under repeated stress can cause hairline fractures, also known as stress fractures. Tendinitis, which is the inflammation of a tendon, can result from using muscles and tendons too much. Rest, ice, compression and elevation usually help with the pain, but sometimes physical therapy is necessary.
Knee Ligament Injuries
ACL injuries are extremely common in youth sports. In total, more than 95,000 people in the U.S. injure their ACL every year. Unfortunately, these injuries can be debilitating and lead to permanent lifestyle changes, such as young athletes no longer being able to practice the sport they love. This is why preventing ACL injuries in youth sports is so important.
An ACL injury can be categorized as a knee ligament injury because the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is one of the two major knee ligaments that connect the thigh bone to the shin bone.
It should be noted that ACL injuries aren't the only knee injuries one can experience. The posterior cruciate ligament, which is the second major ligament that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone, is just as susceptible to injury, as are the lateral collateral ligaments and the medial collateral ligaments.
Knee ligament injuries can be caused by:
- Twisting the knee while the foot remains stationary
- A blow to the knee
- Extending one's knee too much
- Landing hard on a flexed knee from a jump
- Coming to a sudden stop while running
- Shifting weight suddenly from one leg to another
Preventing Injuries in Youth Sports
Preventing injuries in youth sports is often a matter of teaching and enforcing the need to practice basic movement skills. For example, most youths aren't taught how to move properly. The focus is often on the game and things such as landing, running and squatting mechanics are overlooked.
The problem is that if young athletes have no clue how to lunge, jump, squat and land without their knees and ankles collapsing, they will end up with a serious injury. This is why teaching proper form and making them repeat said form until it's a habit is critical.
Another important aspect is muscle strength. A strong core and strong muscles in general will help prevent a wide range of injuries. Oddly enough, while core and leg strength are considered important indicators of how well someone will recover after an ACL injury, they are ignored as prevention options.
Last, but not least, it's critical to make sure young athletes aren't overdoing it. The competition is fierce and they often push themselves too hard and end up with various injuries as a result. They need to understand that rest, good nutrition and sleep are just as essential in achieving their goals and preventing ACL injuries in youth sports.
Preventing injuries in youth sports is not as difficult as it might sound, it doesn't require anything complicated. It's a matter of building muscle strength, learning some important movement mechanics and then repeating those mechanics until they become habits.
If the worst has happened, the Augusta Health Joint Center can provide top quality treatment for youth sports related injuries. We use the latest technology and our physicians are highly qualified and experienced in treating a wide range of injuries, so give us a call and let us help your child or teenager get back to normal and feel better than they ever have before.