At Rebound, we’re big fans of teen sports. Teen athletes are generally healthy, motivated individuals who learn early on that exercise is an important part of life. Unfortunately, because we’re an orthopedic practice, a lot of the teen athletes we meet are injured, and many of these injuries are entirely preventable.
Sports injuries fall into two categories: acute and overuse. Acute injuries occur after a misstep or a collision of some kind. They include sprains, ACL tears, fractures and the like. Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive actions that damage the body over time. They account for a lot of the ligament-related injuries we treat. Overuse injuries used to be fairly rare among teens, but we’re seeing more of these types of injuries among teens who specialize in one or two sports at a very early age and play year round.
Proper conditioning is crucial to the prevention of both acute and overuse injuries, especially for teens because their bodies are still developing. Teens that are new to sport should start by getting in good overall shape, with aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility. During the two months leading up to their season, they should exercise for up to an hour most days of the week. This way they can minimize the risk of an acute injury brought on by the stress of the more intense physical exercise they’ll experience in training. It’s important to exercise the entire body, not just those parts of it that might be utilized more extensively in the activities their sport calls for.
More serious and experienced teen athletes should consider building some rest days into their workout schedules, and alternating between harder and easier workouts. The body needs time to recover from intense physical exercise and stress, and proper rest will lead to noticeable performance improvements. This concept is often a difficult for teens to grasp.
Proper technique is also crucial to injury prevention. Many sports appear to require extensive use of only a few muscles, such as pitching in baseball. It’s easy for athletes to over-rely on these muscles, instead of utilizing many of their core muscles to balance the activity and actually improve performance.
Finally, sport-specific warm-ups can also significantly reduce sport-related injuries among teens. For example, ACL injuries are common among soccer players, and much less common among soccer players who warm up with stretches and strength exercises designed to prevent those injuries. Rebound Physical Therapy has developed an ACL Injury Prevention Jump Program specifically designed to help coaches train soccer players to avoid this problem.
Of course, injuries are still going to occur, but the risks of those injuries can be drastically minimized with proper training, and they’re far outweighed by the overall benefits of teen sports.
If an unforeseen injury does occur, prompt attention may help mitigate further damage. Our weekly High School Sports Injury Clinic offers prompt care for suspected injuries for just that reason. Walk-in appointments for student athletes are available without appointment.