We all want our kids to succeed, and we take great steps to support their efforts. When it comes to sports, shuttling them to and from early morning practices, buying the required gear, and cheering at their competitions are all important measures, but they are not enough. Parents must also be on the front lines to make sure their children are properly training for these activities.
Nearly half of all sports injuries that occur – more than 5 million annually – are due to overuse. With the new school year in full swing and kids getting back into sports, it’s the perfect time to educate kids, parents and coaches on staying safe while playing sports.
Dr. Kirk Reynolds, an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedics, attributes the increase in overuse injuries to a number of causes. However, he says the biggest issue is year-round play.
“As a sports medicine specialist, I am seeing more and more young athletes who are ‘specializing’ in a sport,” he says. “This means that they play that sport year-round – including travel teams and weekend tournaments. This does not allow them to ‘cross train’ in other sports. Continuing to stress the growing body with one repetitive activity predisposes a kid to injury.”
He says the other linked issue is the general health of our population. “Too many kids spend most of their free time inside playing video games or surfing the internet,” he explains. “Then they go to practice for a sport and do not properly warm up or train for their activities.”
While it may seem counterintuitive on the surface, Dr. Reynolds says it is actually a good thing for kids to go from one sport to the next, season to season.
“The good thing about different sports is that they require our bodies to move and function differently,” he explains. “This means that muscles and joints are ‘stressed’ in unique ways. This helps keep the body fit, but decreases the risk of repetitive use injuries. However, if the athlete has not fully recovered from an injury in one sport, he/she should not begin another sport until he/she has healed.”
If you’re concerned that your child is suffering from an overuse injury, Dr. Reynolds offers advice. “Kids are good at hiding things from their parents, but injury is not one of them,” he says. “Frequent requests for over-the-counter medications can be a red flag. Complaints of shoulder, elbow, ankle or knee pain are common with overuse injuries.”
Coaches should also be on the lookout for warning signs. Early fatigue is the biggest red flag a coach can, and should, be aware of. “If a player is ‘dragging’ during practice, they are at an increased risk for injury,” he says. “When our bodies are fatigued, we ‘cheat’ with poor movements, posture, etc. This is a set-up for injury.”
The fact is – from the discipline of training and working in teams, to learning how to be coachable and how to behave when losing – youth sports provide lifelong lessons for kids.
NOTE: ASO offers a walk-in clinic every Saturday morning from 9-11 a.m. during the fall and spring sports seasons. If your child is showing signs of an injury, and you would like an evaluation from a sports medicine specialist, this could be the perfect option for you.
Dr. Kirk Reynolds is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon at Arkansas Specialty Orthopaedics, specializing in sports medicine with specific expertise in problems of the shoulder, knee, ankle and elbow. His practice focuses on arthroscopic treatment of many shoulder, elbow and knee injuries. He also specializes in cartilage restoration of the knee including autologous chondrocyte implantation and cartilage transplants, as well as, advanced shoulder reconstruction including total shoulder arthroplasty and reverse shoulder arthroplasty.