Stay in the Game: Avoiding Injuries in Youth Sports
They may think they’re indestructible, but thousands of young athletes suffer injuries playing sports every year. With summer sports season on the horizon, kids will be flocking to the fields. UR Medicine Sports Medicine experts say proper training may help them avoid injury and stay in the game.
Some injuries are unavoidable because they happen in the heat of competition—such as jamming a finger when sliding head-first into home. But injuries from overuse, insufficient conditioning or poor body mechanics can often be prevented.
Overuse injuries are very common in baseball and softball. They can cause inflammation and injuries that require physical therapy, time away from the sport, and sometimes, surgery to correct the problem.
Prevention is the Priority
Injury prevention is a top priority for the nation’s best athletes and it should be just as important for young athletes, their parents and coaches. Athletes who want to maximize their sports performance need to be as fit as possible, but they also need to stay on the “active” roster by protecting their health.
We’ve learned a lot about how proper athletic conditioning, medical care, nutrition and mental fitness can help athletes stay healthy and perform well. But some youth athletes who play at a competitive level—and may be competing for college athletic scholarships—focus on near-term goals at the expense of their long-term health and function.
For example, there are clear guidelines for how many pitches a baseball or softball player should throw in a game, and how many times they should pitch over the course of a week. While boys’ baseball teams tend to follow this rule, many girls’ softball teams take the field with only one pitcher for the game. There seems to be a perception that because girls throw a softball underhand, they use less force than boys. Tests have shown that stress on elbows and shoulders is as intense in underhand pitching as in overhand pitching.
Certified athletic trainers are experts in helping athletes get conditioned for their sport to maximize their performance on the field. Equally important, we can help athletes prevent injuries that keep them off the field for a game, several weeks or even a full season. By assessing an athlete’s body mechanics—every nuance of their baseball or softball pitch, for example—we help them adjust the pitch to make it more effective and less taxing on the body. And we can recommend a training regimen that is appropriate for their physiology, current level of fitness and any anatomical vulnerabilities they may have.
Working with a trainer can help young athletes make progress on their goals and gain a better understanding of their bodies and how to protect them. Our goal is to make them better at their game, and keep them IN the game so they continue to develop their skills and enjoy their sport.
UR Medicine Sports Medicine physicians, certified athletic trainers and physical therapists specialize in offering medically proven, scientifically-based athletic training and treatment for athletes of all ages.
Lori Barrette |