High school athletes alone account for about two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet the American College of Sports Medicine estimates more than half of all youth sports injuries are preventable.
The sports medicine physicians at Rush University Medical Center are joining the STOP Sports Injury campaign, a program launched this spring by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), to arm the public with accurate information and tools to prevent, recognize and treat long-term consequences of sports overuse and trauma injuries to children.
“Our growing support will dramatically increase the campaign’s ability to help keep young athletes healthy, safe and out of the operating room,” said Dr. James Andrews, campaign co-chair and president of the AOSSM.
“There is an epidemic of injuries in youth sports,” said Dr. Bernard Bach, director of Sports Medicine at Rush and past president of AOSSM. “Many of these injuries are preventable with safety precautions and proper training.”
Bach is especially concerned about overuse injuries and burnout among young athletes. Overuse injuries are the result of repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, bones, and joints. Common examples include tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, Youth Pitching elbow, runner’s knee, and shin splints.
“Overuse injuries are more common in sports than acute injuries. We often see these injuries occur when young athletes are too focused on one sport at an early age,” said Bach. “We discourage year round training in one sport and instead recommend young athletes cross train and play at least two sports. In fact, baseball scouts actually are more interested in athletes who play more than one sport because they are better conditioned and less likely to suffer an overuse injury.”
It’s important to listen to your body when it comes to preventing overuse injuries. Don’t play in pain. Pushing through pain will only make the problem worse. Seek the advice of a sports medicine specialist or athletic trainer and don’t return to play until a health professional has granted clearance.
To prevent acute injuries, have a pre-season health and wellness evaluation. It’s crucial that athletes wear properly fitted protective equipment and play in safe field conditions. Learn the proper techniques for your sport. Also, perform warm-up and cool-down routines and consistently incorporate strength training, especially core strengthening, and stretching.
Other common sports injuries to be aware of as kids head back to sports this fall include heat illness and concussion:
Most fall sports return to practice in the steamy month of August. Be aware of the impact of high temperatures and on the look-out for symptoms of heat illness, which include chills, dark colored urine, dizziness, dry mouth, headaches, thirst and weakness. More serious symptoms, which may be signs of heat stroke, include difficulty breathing, increasing body temperature, muscle cramps, nausea and tingling of the limbs. Prevent heat illness by staying properly hydrated; wearing appropriate light colored, loose fitting clothing; monitoring the intensity of physical activity; and preparing for the heat with proper training.
All athletes, especially those in high contact sports, are at risk for a concussion. All athletes who sustain a concussion, no matter how minor, should undergo an evaluation by a healthcare professional before returning to play. If left undiagnosed, a concussion may place an athlete at risk of developing second impact syndrome, a potentially fatal injury that occurs when an athlete sustains a second head injury before a previous head injury has healed. Concussion symptoms include balance problems, difficulty communicating and concentrating, dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, headache, irritability, memory difficulties, and nausea, sensitivity to light or noise and visual problems.
“Unfortunately, 70 percent of kids stop playing sports by the age of 13 because they are burned out,’ said Bach. “We want to keep kids in sports for life by raising awareness about reducing injury and playing smart and educating parents and coaches about over training and keeping sports fun.”
The STOP Sports Injuries campaign was initiated by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) and includes a coalition of experts, including the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Athletic Trainers’ Association, National Strength and Conditioning Association, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, Sports Physical Therapy Section, Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America and SAFE Kids USA.
For more information, visit www.STOPSportsInjuries.org.