It’s All Fun and Games Until ...Jan 01, 2016 ● By Allie Spletter
Sports-related injuries are just part of the game for many athletes, and though the assumption is that there are many “common” injuries as a result of hitting the field or falling on the court, many professionals generally link those injuries to the sports themselves. Dr. Brad Bellard, a Frisco-based sports medicine physician, explains, “I am not sure if there are ‘common injuries’ in kids and teens in general so much as there are common injuries specific to certain sports. For example, during basketball season, I expect to see an increase in ankle sprains in my athletes. During football, I see concussions, broken bones and bruises/contusions more often.” Kim Watson, Wakeland High School’s head volleyball coach, agrees, asserting that volleyball injuries are commonly in the ankle or knee, but in the last several years, back injuries have become more prevalent. Ms. Watson shares, “I have had a few young girls, ages 14-16, with back problems. To me, that is crazy to have at that age. Most of the time, it is a result of overuse. Rarely, is it a genetic problem. When you have back issues at that age, most of the time, I feel like it is a result of too much during the growing years.” In our ever-evolving world of modern medicine, there are measures parents can take to ensure their growing and maturing athlete’s safety as they participate in the sports they love.
All too often, parents are just as eager and enthusiastic as the young athlete is about their participation in a certain sport. In order to play harder and practice more, young athletes often brush off pain or discomfort, pushing themselves too far. This results in injury that often adversely affects them for months or even years. Dr. Marco Coppola, the chief medical officer and vice president for medical affairs of Family ER+Urgent Care, pragmatically assures parents, stating, “No matter what parents do and no matter how vigilant they are, kids are always going to get hurt. But, there are a lot of things parents can do to minimize injuries.”
So, how can parents ensure they are doing all they can for their future NFL and WNBA players now in order to avoid injuries or lasting problems? Dr. Coppola advises that parents fully prepare and equip their child for success before they ever hit the court or field. He says, “There are some non-negotiable things that parents must do. First, before playing any type of organized sport, parents should have their child cleared by the pediatrician. The child needs to be closely examined for heart murmurs or other signs that may result in sudden death. Then, there are the little things. For example, make sure their little soccer players wear shin guards and wear the correct size boot or cleat (be prepared to buy new cleats often)! Have young football players receive a concussion baseline and make sure their equipment is new with the latest safety advances. As children get older, make sure they properly stretch before participating in strenuous activity. Another important thing to remember is to stay hydrated. I know this seems obvious, but it is amazing how many young athletes come to the emergency room with dehydration.”
Additionally, Dr. Randal L. Troop, the sports medicine physician and team doctor to the Frisco RoughRiders, recommends that parents closely monitor their kids’ time spent practicing and playing. “Parents can help their children avoid injuries by working with coaches to monitor the amount of practice time and game time allowed per week,” Dr. Troop explains. “They should remain vigilant in listening to their children when they begin to complain about pains they are having during practice and games.” Dr. Bellard believes prevention depends largely on the sport, but that there are, of course, certain injuries that are often times unavoidable, such as broken bones and concussions. He says, “Injuries such as strains (like hamstring or calf) can be limited by taking advantage of warming up and stretching both before and after play. In addition, as a sports medicine doctor, I have seen an increasing number of overuse injuries in youth sports. This happens primarily because athletes are training too much and also training year-round, putting them at greater risk of injuries including stress fractures in runners, elbow and shoulder issues in throwers and tendonitis. Therefore, decreasing the intensity, duration and frequency of training can help avoid many of these overuse injuries.” Chad Cole, the Reedy High School athletic coordinator, agrees that overuse is a growing concern for coaches across the country. “I, like many others, am always concerned about overuse injuries at a very young age, which is why a variety of sports in high school is a good thing!” Taking advantage of preventative efforts is paramount, and parents can help their athlete by making sure their kiddo stretches both before and after play, warms up and cools down after workouts, rests well between games, practices and rests between seasons and closely follows the instructions of the medical professional they have worked with while working towards returning to play.
Preventative efforts are crucial, but, as Dr. Coppola and Dr. Bellard know, injuries are going to happen. When they do, parents need to take vigilant care, listening to their athlete and watching for problematic symptoms or signs that might indicate more than just a little discomfort. Dr. Bellard says the best thing parents can do is listen to their athlete. “Anytime their ability to perform or function at their regular level is compromised because of pain, then they should always be evaluated by a medical professional,” he advises.
Dr. Coppola recommends that parents look for physical signs of injury and remain safe (rather than sorry) in regards to dealing with injury. He explains, “Bumps that keep growing, despite ice and compression, may be a sign of an expanding hematoma. A bruise that really hurts and looks like the limb is deformed could be the sign of a broken bone, and pain not relieved with simple home remedies probably needs to be addressed by a health care provider. Even the slightest of injuries is enough to wreak havoc. So, it is best to be safe sooner than sorry later.” Dr. Troop advises parents to have pain evaluated by a trained sports medicine specialist if their child begins to complain of increasing pain that does not resolve with rest and Advil. He urges parents not to encourage the child to push through the pain. Instead, have the child rest and recover from his or her overactive schedule.
While sports injuries are always possible, both parents and their young athletes can very much control many preventative measures in order to avoid injury. Sports-related injuries are common and sometimes detrimental, but many are preventable. It is important to remember that young, growing and aspiring athletes need to have fun and not take things too seriously! While dedication to the game is important, so is their well-being and health.
Frisco is home to many incredible sports medicine professionals who can assess your athlete’s needs when the time comes. Remember to be diligent in preventative measures, help athletes take care of their bodies and always remind them to enjoy playing the game or being involved in their sport. The impact of sports injuries can be long-lasting or detrimental to the future plans of a young athlete. Taking control and knowing when to seek medical attention is an easy way to keep your athlete in the game, off the bench and performing at their best.