Now that spring has arrived, our young athletes are on the track, fields, tennis courts, golf courses and baseball diamonds. Depending on what they’ve been doing in the off-season, that could mean trouble.
The boy who spent his winter on the couch might be out of shape and, thus, more prone to injury. But the girl who spent her entire winter playing basketball, and nothing but basketball, and is now gearing up for a spring full of basketball, could also face trouble.
A new study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that a major cause of injuries in sports is specialization. Specifically, they found that high school athletes who specialize in a single sport are 70 percent more likely to suffer an injury during their playing season than those who play multiple sports.
Whether a child starts the season out of shape or specializes in only one sport, advice for avoiding injury is the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following tips for preventing spring sports injuries.
- Take at least one day off a week and one month off a year from training for a particular sport.
- Strengthen muscles. Young athletes often think conditioning is unnecessary and don’t always give it their all. But this is the part of practice that can keep them strong—and injury-free—throughout the season.
- Stretch. This is probably the only thing kids deem more annoying than conditioning, but stretching after games or practice should be a top priority.
- Use proper technique. Whether you’re a tennis player or a softball pitcher, proper form can keep you safe.
- Take breaks and don’t play through pain. Sure, kids want their coaches to know they’re tough. But there’s a difference between pushing yourself and punishing yourself. Make sure your child knows it.
- Be sure to use common sense. If you’re a sprinter, don’t grab the pole and attempt the pole vault just for fun without any instruction. If you’re a baseball player, don’t throw balls at teammates until you’re certain they’re looking at you.
- Stay hydrated. That means before, during and after practice or a game.
As for adults who were in the gym—or basement—all winter, slogging it out on the treadmill or elliptical, it’s time to take your game outside.
Maybe that means jogging through your neighborhood. Or meeting friends for tennis. Perhaps it’s time to get back into the swing of your golf game.
Whatever your spring workout of choice may be, you want to be able to keep it up all summer. That means preventing the kinds of injuries that are common when those of us who are older than teens switch into high gear too quickly.
Just like the kids, we need days off. A great way to get tennis elbow is to go from not playing to playing six days a week. We also need to cross-train by doing strength training and stretching.
And while we all make our kids’ gear a priority, check the soles of your own running or walking shoes to see if it’s time for a new pair.
Lastly, make sure you buy yourself a nice portable chair to lounge in, maybe even with an attached sun shade, for those long hours at your child’s track meets, soccer tournaments and baseball games. This has nothing to do with injury prevention, obviously, but it will definitely make you more comfortable.
Is your child struggling with a nagging sports injury? Taking a wait-and-see approach sometimes works, but it can also prevent your child from recovering as quickly and completely as possible. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our sports medicine experts.