Common Sports Injuries for Teen Athletes
High school sports have become a popular extracurricular for many teens. They are a great way to stay in shape and help teach teamwork, leadership, and even time management when balanced with other responsibilities. Unfortunately, for many young athletes, injuries are common, ranging from acute to catastrophic. Each type of injury requires specific treatment that may cause them to miss a game, or even the entire season, but healing time is essential for a proper return to the field or court.
If you watch professional sports, you have undoubtedly witnessed any number of injuries throughout the season. Teens are injured at about the same rate as professionals, but the injuries can be much worse if not treated correctly as these young athletes are still growing. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “Growth is generally uneven: Bones grow first, which pulls at tight muscles and tendons.” This tension is a major contributing factor of injuries to muscles, tendons and growth plates that are common among young athletes.
There are a few different levels of injury that can occur in athletes. Understanding each can help the healing process and provide a realistic expectation for healing.
- Acute Injuries: These are classified as bruises, sprains, strains and fractures. Typically, they are caused by a sudden trauma, such as a collision between players or with an obstacle. Another common acute injury is a twisted ankle, resulting in fracture or sprain.
- Overuse Injuries: As the skill level of a sport increases, so do the practices, training and games. This can result in gradual damage over time as there is not enough recovery time in between to heal. Common overuse injuries have been seen in elbows of baseball pitchers, shoulders of swimmers, and wrist and elbow injuries in cheerleaders and gymnasts. Stress fractures also become very common, as old bone breaks down quickly with overuse and new bone does not have enough time to grow in, causing weakness.
- Catastrophic Injuries: These types of injuries are more common with contact sports, such as hockey and football, but have been reported in many others. Catastrophic injuries include damage to the brain, spinal cord, or growth plates. Concussions, or mild traumatic brain injuries, have become a hot topic of conversation with their rise in professional football. If a concussion is suspected, the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Neurology recommend the athlete be evaluated and cleared by a doctor before they can return to normal play to avoid any permanent damage. Growth plate injuries occur to the developing cartilage at the end of long bones. These are the final portion of the bone to harden, which is why they are more susceptible to fracture. An injury to the growth plate can cause the bone growth to stop or cause a deformity of the bone.
Any injury that occurs due to sports, particularly if any symptoms or discomfort persist, should be seen by a doctor. Athletes who are pushed to work through pain, or are downplaying the severity in order to continue competing may be causing further damage that could become permanent or even result in a disability. This is where the importance of observation by both coaches and parents comes into play as pain or discomfort can be seen if their technique seems off or they have a decreased interest in practice.
Treatment will all depend on the type of injury and its severity. It could range from simple rest to therapy and even surgery. The injury should be healed completely before the athlete can return to physical activities. While it may not be easy to have to take the time off to heal, it will result in a much better outcome than what could happen if left untreated. Athletes can work to prevent these types of injuries by making sure they are properly conditioned, trained, and using proper equipment. Limiting the number of teams the athlete participates on during a given season can help prevent overuse injuries, and making sure to take breaks between seasons, as well as playing other sports throughout the year, can not only help to prevent injury, but help develop an array of athletic skills.
If you have a teen athlete who has a sports-related injury, contact us today. We will help them with the necessary treatment plan to recover and safely get back on the field.