Playing it Safe: Preventing Common Sports Injuries
Stony Brook Experts Offers Tips on How to Participate Safely in Sports Programs This School Year
STONY BROOK, NY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2015 – Getting students ready and off on the right foot this school year is not just about hitting the books, but also hitting the field safely. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than 3.5 million kids under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year. One leading expert on sports injuries from Stony Brook University Hospital says playing it safe should not be overlooked and many sports injuries can be prevented.
“The biggest problem right now is that many children and teens are not taking time off from their sports activities,” says James Penna, MD, orthopedic surgeon, Stony Brook Medicine. “Young athletes need to rest, but many participate in sports year-round which can result in overuse injuries.”
For the nearly 30 million children and adolescents participating in organized sports, Dr. Penna suggests taking a break throughout the year to prevent overuse injuries such as stress fractures, growth plate fractures, and repetitive stress injuries.
“There should be a two-to-four month break from any one sport, especially the sports that involve overhand motion such as tennis and baseball.”
For students who compete in year-round sports such as gymnastics and swimming, Dr. Penna recommends making sure to warm up properly and to stretch regularly. He also suggests scheduled rests, a change in exercise patterns, and practicing good mechanics which he says can go a long way toward prevention.
Kids who participate in sports such as skateboarding, BMX biking, skiing, and snowboarding need to be sure to wear helmets and pads as these sports put them at a higher risk for injuries.
“Most major organized sports—football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse—have done a good job of ensuring that children wear appropriate protective head gear which helps prevent head injuries and concussions,” says Dr. Penna. “Currently, the concussion rates are higher among soccer players than among football players, and we’ve found that soccer head injuries have tended to go undertreated.”
“If a head injury has occurred, it is particularly important that the child gets 100 percent clearance from his or her doctor, including a complete neurologic checkup, before playing again,” says Dr. Penna. “A seemingly minor head injury sustained while a child is still symptomatic from a prior injury could have catastrophic consequences.”
Parents should pay attention to the wear and tear on their child’s athletic cleats and shoes. In general, a pair of cleats lasts about 200 miles, or the equivalent of one season. Check the cleats often—inspecting the insoles as well as the spikes—to ensure they are not run down. This will help prevent foot and ankle injuries that could easily be avoided.
Staying hydrated is always important when playing a sport. Water is the best replenishing agent, and athletes should take hydration breaks early and often.