Help Your Young Athlete Avoid Sports Injuries
Going straight from lazy summer days at the pool to playing fields in the fall can be a recipe for injury—whether your child is a recreational league athlete or a high school standout. Each year, children under 15 are treated for 3.5 million sports-related injuries. However, many injuries can be prevented with a training program designed for a specific sport, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says.
COMMON YOUTH SPORTS INJURIES
Sports injuries fall into two categories: acute and overuse. Acute injuries include bruises, fractures and sprains caused by bumps, twists and falls. Overuse injuries happen when a bone or joint is repeatedly stressed without giving the body enough time to heal. Examples include stress fractures, tendonitis and shin splints.
Young athletes are vulnerable to overuse injuries because their bones are immature and they lack experience, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. A common example is “Little League elbow”—damage to the elbow joint from throwing too much with bad technique.
TRAIN TO AVOID PAIN
Training prepares the body for a sport with workouts that gradually increase in intensity, frequency and duration. A gradual approach gives the body a chance to rest and heal as it gets stronger. To prepare for their sport, young athletes should:
- Ask coaches for help designing a training program. Coaches can also help prevent improper workout techniques, a major source of overuse injuries.
- Follow the 10 percent rule. Do not increase a training regime—such as mileage, weight or pace—by more than 10 percent per week.
- Avoid fad diets and supplements meant to gain or lose weight. Supplements such as creatine and high-protein diets can cause kidney damage and other major medical problems.
- Remember this rule: If something hurts during exercise, stop immediately. If you feel aches or soreness after exercise, cut back next time. Warm up and cool down with stretching and light jogging before and after workouts.
- Drink plenty of water during exercise. Keep a workout journal to help stay on track and motivated.
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