Competitive Youth Sports Injuries Today Can Lead to Permanent Damage Tomorrow, If Proper Precautions Aren’t Taken

by Dr. Mark Sanders

As youth sports intensify, American children get bigger and seasons last longer and longer, youth sports injuries have become more common and more severe.

In years past it was not out of the ordinary to see a sprained ankle or perhaps a broken leg associated with a youth sport-related injury. But today Orthopedic surgeons like myself are seeing an increase in adult-type athletic injuries such as a torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL), tendonitis, torn cartilage, and torn rotator cuffs.

Football is recognized as one of the most dangerous youth sports based on percentage of injuries versus total participation – followed by mountain biking, basketball, soccer, skateboarding and baseball.

The seriousness of these youth sports injuries is causing concern to myself and the staff here at the Sanders Clinic for Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, because the injuries these kids are sustaining today have the potential to cause permanent damage that affect future joint stability.

If proper prevention is not taken to reduce the risk of such injuries or adequate treatment provided when they do occur, these types of injuries can possibly set the stage for many ailments including the early onset of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease typically found in older patients.

Both parents and coaches should be aware that balanced strength training, exercise and rest are the key in preventing many of these more serious injuries. Too often playing until overly fatigued sets the stage for an injury that may not have occurred otherwise.

Proper equipment is also a key to avoiding many of these youth sports injuries and conditions. Equipment properly fitted to the child will greatly reduce the risk of injury. Conversely, equipment that is not properly sized fails to provide the necessary protection and often causes more harm than good.

It is my belief (and according to recent published reports) that the increase in these traumatic injuries is the result of kids often selecting one sport and playing it year round. This does not adequately give the body the break it needs. Children playing the same sport on multiple teams virtually everyday of the week are at higher risk for injury, particularly overuse injuries.

Parents again can take steps to help prevent these serious injuries in their children by balancing their schedule with rest and lower impact activities. And it is important for parents to encourage their child to speak up when they are hurt. When children “suck it up” and try to “shake it off” by staying in the game, far more serious injuries can and are likely to occur.

I suggest to parents that their children play for one team at a time and play a variety of sports that require different sets of muscles which helps to prevent overuse injuries. Before enrolling in a sport, children should have a general health exam. Protective equipment should be worn properly and safe playing conditions should be provided. Lastly, parents need to pay attention to their actions, as well as those of the coach. All too often parents and coaches intensify the competition, pushing children beyond their limits, which increases the risk for injury.

However, when an injury does occur, I advise all athletes and parents to apply the RICE method; Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. If a permanent injury is suspected contact me at 1-888-8 DR MARK for a full evaluation and determination of your injury.

Dr. Mark Sanders of the Sanders Clinic for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine is certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and was recognized as one of Houston’s “Top Docs” in H Texas Magazine. Dr. Sanders has extensive experience in youth sports related injuries and has helped numerous patients return to their previous level of activity both with and without surgery. Dr. Sanders spearheads one of the most successful reconditioning programs in Houston, combining a proper balance of weight management, nutrition, and patient specific exercises – helping to ensure a strong future and long, active life.