Achy breaky parts
It seems as though the young people of today have more health issues than past generations. The problem: They are playing too many sports too often and experiencing overuse injuries, including knee problems, stress fractures, tendonitis, growth p...
It seems as though the young people of today have more health issues than past generations. The problem: They are playing too many sports too often and experiencing overuse injuries, including knee problems, stress fractures, tendonitis, growth plate injuries and damage to the elbow joint, also called Little League elbow. According to the California Athletic Trainers Association, young players are experiencing the same injuries professional athletes are encountering.
There are very big differences between overuse injuries such as the ones listed above and acute injuries. Someone with an overuse injury usually will complain to an athletic trainer about an aching part of their body that gradually has been getting worse, yet they cannot recall any specific incident. With acute injuries, athletes know exactly how they injured themselves, and it is a sudden, painful feeling.
Darci Stark, head athletic trainer for Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, Calif., and the Sacramento Knights soccer team as well as assistant athletic trainer of the Sacramento Monarchs, answered the following questions about common injuries suffered by young athletes.
How do you know when the athlete has overused his or her body?
The athlete usually will complain of pain that began without a specific incident and progressively has gotten worse. The athlete tends either to be starting a new sport or activity that their body was not properly conditioned for, or they are a year-round athlete who never stops to allow their body to heal.
What can the athlete or parents do to prevent overuse injuries from occurring?
The athlete needs to learn to listen to his or her body. It is normal to have soreness for up to two days after an intense practice or competition, but if the pain lasts longer than that, they should be seen by a medical professional. Parents can assist by listening to their child's complaints (and) seeking medical help when appropriate. They also can encourage their child to play a variety of sports. This is called cross-training and helps give the body a rest from the repetitive action of a single sport.
Are the injuries of your students worse than 10 years ago?
I do believe it is worse than it was 10 years ago. Kids are being pushed to play on numerous teams, play more than one sport at a time and never give their bodies a rest. I see this a lot in girls soccer where a girl could be on a competitive team, an Olympic development team and a high school team, all at the same time. On top of that, many athletes are turning to private training to enhance their skills.
Are there more injuries in high school sports versus club sports or the other way around?
I think that is hard to determine. I think I may see more injuries at the high school level simply because I am available. I often have athletes who are not in season at the high school who come to me with injuries that were sustained during club practice. I also think that the injuries at club teams tend to be ignored for longer because there is no convenient medical professional such as an athletic trainer available.
How do you educate youth about sports injuries?
Whenever an athlete comes to me to have an injury evaluated, we discuss how it happened, how to prevent it from happening again and how to treat it. I also work with my coaches to educate them on sports injuries, which they then take to the athletes.
Do injuries appear more at games or at practice?
Most overuse injuries are reported during practices. This probably is due to the fact that there are more practices in a given week than competitions. Athletes also tend to overlook pain during competitions because they don't want to leave the game.
Smith attends El Camino High School in Oceanside, Calif.