Staying off the Springtime Injury Report
We all know that youth sports are competitive. Our athletes strive to be the best and we as their parents, coaches and cheerleaders encourage their efforts, not realizing that they may be overextending themselves and opening themselves up to an injury.
“The most common cause for injury is strenuous and repetitive motions combined with inadequate rest. If your child is involved in a sport that is high impact, involves throwing or is full contact—it puts them at risk for shoulder, elbow and knee injuries, explains James Snead, MD, Chief of Orthopedics at Sturdy Memorial Hospital. “We often see dislocations, tears, fractures and tendonitis as a result of both traumatic and overuse injuries.”
As a parent or an athlete, it is important to know there are treatment options for sustained injuries including noninvasive therapies and if required, minimally invasive surgical options. While prevention of an injury through proper conditioning and mechanics exercises is ideal, if an injury occurs, the ultimate goal is a safe return to the sport or activity.
“An injury we see often is a shoulder dislocation. This can occur when an athlete falls on an outstretched arm or collides with another athlete,” says Dr. Snead. A closed reduction is the most common treatment. Following the reduction, you’d be required to wear a sling to immobilize the shoulder and reduce the risk of another dislocation. “If you have repeat dislocations, surgery may be required. This would be identified through an MRI to determine if tears are present. Surgery is often done arthroscopically- using two to three incisions and a camera to inspect and repair tears,” explains Dr. Snead. “Follow up physical therapy for approximately six weeks as well as abstaining from activities that could result in repeat injury for four to six months post-surgery is required.”
Tennis elbow, also known as tendonitis—an inflammation or irritation of the tendons is another common injury. Once diagnosed, you can treat it with rest, anti-inflammatories and physical therapy. “We also see ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tears quite a bit during this time of year,” says Dr. Snead. “This is caused by repetitive overhand throwing. Rest, ice, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy are the initial course of treatment, if you do not get relief from these techniques, we will discuss a UCL reconstruction.”
Knees are no exception to the injury report for athletes this time of year. All too common in young and old athletes alike is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. This is often caused by a sudden stop or changes in direction as well as improper landing. If you suffer an ACL tear, you’ll likely experience a pop in the knee followed by pain and swelling. “Surgery is the best course of treatment, as those who opt out of surgery tend to suffer from instability and are often sidelined from engaging in a number of activities,” explains Dr. Snead. “The surgery is done arthroscopically and requires a tendon graft, recovery from this procedure takes time and requires you to follow your doctor’s treatment plan for rehabilitation for the best outcome.”
Wearing appropriate protective gear such as shoulder and elbow pads can help prevent traumatic injuries. When it comes to overuse injuries, prevention starts with ensuring correct throwing mechanics, following pitching guidelines, increasing arm, core and rotator cuff strength as well as ensuring proper rest.
For more information on prevention and treatment for youth sports injuries, visit the Stop Sports Injuries website, provided by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, among other organizations.