What’s the Incidence of Injury?
40% of all youth (children, teenager and adolescent) injuries are sports-related. Overall, male and female injury rates are becoming equal due to a gradually increasing female participation rate. Injuries related to sports participation fall into two types of trauma:
- Macro (due to a single traumatic event eg fracture) and
- Micro (due to repetitive overuse trauma).
Injuries in the young athlete are often trivialised. They are usually asked or encouraged to “toughen up and play through the pain.” This approach is not in the young athlete’s best interest for the following reasons:
- it often leads to both delayed injury healing and return to sports,
- it can turn an easily treatable injury into one that becomes difficult to treat, and
- in some cases, it can result in a serious permanent injury that precludes future sports participation.
An Accurate Diagnosis is Essential
In most cases, your physiotherapist can make an accurate diagnosis by listening to your child’s injury history and performing a thorough clinical examination. The adolescent’s age, sex, and level of participation in sports are important. A description of how the injury occurred is valuable. Your physiotherapist will want to know if there was a “pop”, swelling, history of previous injury, family history of similar injury, locking or giving way, or other signs or symptoms. They’ll also ask you about how much training and game time our child is having to detect whether “overtraining” could be predisposing them to injury.
While special diagnostic tests such as Xray, MRI and ultrasound scans may be required, in most cases an accurate diagnosis can be made by taking a good history and performing a systematic examination of the injured structures.
Most overuse injuries, such as stress fractures and tendinopathies, are preventable. If your child suffers any overuse injury, the first choice of treatment is rest until a medical opinion can be sought. In young athletes, this means avoiding the activity that is causing the problem, or reducing the intensity, until the discomfort resolves. Bed rest or immobilisation are rarely needed.
Managing your child’s “exercise load”is particularly important. “Gifted” athletes are often the victims of overtraining and over competing. Their natural athleticism encourages their school, club and representative coaches to over play and overtrain these children. They are usually the start of the team and everyone wants them to play. As a parent, it is very important that you convey the volume of training and game time to their coaches. The good coaches will understand that overloading is a problem that can be managed. But unfortunately, not every coach does what is best for the child!
Tips for Parents and Coaches
Adolescents have a lot of enjoyable sporting years ahead of them. It would be a shame to see this enjoyment ended too soon.
- Allow your children to play at their own intensity and pace.
- Encourage your child to start getting in shape and conditioning a month before any team sports are to begin.
- Emphasise stretching and flexibility exercises.
- Start core stability and postural exercises early in life. Gymnasts start very early to develop excellent body control.This should also apply to other sports.
- Make sure fields are in reasonably good condition and that protective equipment fits correctly (helmets, shoulder pads, shin guards, etc.).
When in doubt, seek expert medical advice. It’s better to be safe than sorry. In general, children are motivated to play sports because it is fun. Parents and coaches who demand too much, too soon may be putting their children at risk.
This article was written by John Miller and the full and original article can be found at www.physioworks.co.au.
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