After a long year in quarantine, spring sports are finally reopening and recruiting kids across the country for lots of outdoor activity, teamwork and fun. While parents and children alike are ecstatic to get back on the pitch, sports injury prevention should be top of mind—especially since physical activities have been limited.
Sprains and strains are some of the most common injuries in any sport. In fact, most young athletes experience overuse injuries, like sprains, strains or fractures, rather than traumatic injuries, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
A sprain is the overstretching or tearing of ligaments (the tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones together at a joint) while a strain is the overstretching or tearing of muscle tissue or tendons. Tendons are dense fibrous cords of tissue that connect bones to muscles. While sprains and strains can occur in both the upper and lower parts of the body, the most commonplace is the ankle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, national data from 2011-2014, the majority of injury diagnoses involved sprains and strains (approximately 41 percent) and fractures (approximately 20 percent).
How to prevent sprains and strains
Sports injury prevention is an essential step in preparing for the upcoming spring season. Here are 10 ways you can work with your child to avoid sprains, strains and fractures:
- Talk to your doctor
Before starting any new activity or sport, or jump back into one after time off, it’s important to visit your primary care doctor for a full physical and health screening. They can help determine whether you have any health risks that may affect your play.
- Get quality equipment
Well-fitting protective gear, like mouth guards, shin guards, helmets and athletic shoes, helps prevent serious injuries and reduces the severity of an injury you may receive. It also allows you to focus more on your technique as well as the game. If your protective gear is issued by the sports organization, be sure to check it for wear, tear and integrity and replace it as necessary.
- Stretch and warm up
Warming up prevents injuries by loosening your joints, and improving your blood flow to your muscles, which means your muscles are less likely to tear, rip or twist in a painful or harmful way during your activity. Warm up for 5-10 minutes and hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
- Learn proper techniques
Proper technique is beneficial because it promotes better performance and reduces the risk of injury. Players need to develop proper technique to play well and to play safely. Coaches should always be on the lookout for improper technique and correct as needed to avoid injury.
- Rest during activities
Taking time to rest during training sessions, practice or games can improve your levels of engagement, focus and motivation. It can also help keep your mind sharp, which improves your technique and lowers your risk for injury. Try to rest in a cool, shaded area to help your body cool off and recover more quickly.
Staying hydrated while engaging in sports activities replaces the water lost through perspiration and breathing and helps prevent cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
- Eat healthy foods
Maintaining a healthy diet fuels your body with all the essential nutrients and minerals you need, so you can optimize your gameplay. Good nutrition can also help promote muscle growth and repair.
- Stop when you are fatigued
Now when to call it quits for the day. Fatigued minds, bodies and muscles increase your risk for injury. Know your limits and stop playing and avoid playing sports when you’re overly tired to reduce your risk of sprain, strain or fracture.
- Take time off
Mental and physical downtime is vital for enhancing your performance on the playing field. As you rest, your body has a chance to replenish glycogen (energy) stores, repair muscle fibers and produce new blood cells. Take a break from your sport or activity at least 1-2 days a week.
- Do not play if you’re injured
Do not continue to participate in sports or activities if you have sustained an injury. Not only can it make your injury worse, but a small stress fracture can also grow into a more serious, fracture that will take longer to heal.
While many mild sprain, strain or fracture injuries can be safely treated at home with rest, ice, compression and elevation, moderate to severe injuries should be treated by a medical professional to prevent further complications. Amory Urgent care is available for walk-in appointments 7 days a week from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.