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Prevention of Sports Injuries Is Key

Sports Injuries

Prevention is the key to dealing with sports injuries, and MedStary St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown recently published an article on the topic, written by retired Colonel Steven J. Svoboda, MD, board-certified Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Surgeon at MedStar Health at Lafayette Centre.

Now that the the fall sports season is underway, athletes of all ages are gearing up for success. Unfortunately, the season can end quickly for those who get injured on the field or court.

Fortunately, many sports injuries are preventable with careful preparation before the season begins—and by using a little common sense.

The Most Common Sports Injuries

Muscle strains, bruises, and joint sprains are some of the most common sports-related injuries. Athletes tend to recover from these injuries fairly quickly, especially if they are treated soon after the injury occurs.

However, major injuries, like broken bones or ligament ruptures, are more likely to occur early in the season. These often happen because athletes were not prepared physically for their sport before the season began.

The age of athletes can also put them at greater risk for certain injuries. Because they are still growing and not as experienced in their sport, younger athletes are at a higher risk for sports injuries like bone fractures. A unique children’s fracture involves an athlete’s growth plate, which is the part of the bones that grows longer as children grow taller. A fractured growth plate can cause permanent damage and result in abnormal growth of the affected bone, making treatment critical.

As athletes get older, their soft tissue becomes stiffer and less resilient, leading to more risk for tendon ruptures. For example, an Achilles tendon rupture — which occurs when the tendon connecting your calf muscles to your heel bone tears—is a major injury that requires surgery and months of rehabilitation.

Concussions are also a concern for every athlete, regardless of their age or sport. Sustaining any sudden head trauma or movement creates a risk of concussion and with any associated symptoms like loss of balance, headache, or confusion (to name just a few), the athlete should be evaluated immediately for a concussion. A certified athletic trainer or physician should assess the student’s condition using a concussion protocol, which outlines how a concussion is diagnosed and is then managed all the way through returning to play.

Can You Prevent an Injury?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.6 million young athletes will deal with a sports-related injury this year. More than half of those injuries are preventable.

While some injuries are unavoidable, there are steps athletes can take to limit their risk of an injury, including:

  • Work on fitness before the season begins. Focus attention on strength training and aerobic fitness so your body is in shape before the start of the sports season.
  • Train. Very few athletes excel at their sport without practicing it first. Develop the unique skills for your sport in the off-season.
  • Avoid sticking to one sport, especially at a younger age. The risk of overuse injuries, which happen because of repeated wear and tear on your muscles, ligaments, and bones, can decrease by taking breaks during seasons and playing different sports. Stress fractures, overuse injuries like elbow ulnar collateral ligament injuries, and major injuries to the knee like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are often seen in athletes who play one sport continuously without taking a break between seasons.
  • Schedule a pre-season physical. This screening assesses your overall health and risk of injury before the season begins.
  • Use common sense. Always stretch and warm up properly before practice. If you feel any unusual symptoms, like soreness or pain, don’t ignore them. Talk to your certified athletic trainer, if available, or your physician. They will evaluate you to determine the source of your symptoms.

Get treatment as soon as possible if you sustain a sports-related injury. Talk to a certified athletic trainer or physician to determine the extent of your injury and a treatment plan. If your team does not have a certified athletic trainer, it is seek medical attention from a qualified doctor.

You can use the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) method at home to relieve symptoms—though this should never replace appropriate medical care. Every injury is different, so it’s important to talk to a certified athletic trainer or doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan for a specific injury.

Your doctor may give you a general estimate for when you can expect to return to play. Remember: This is only an estimate, because everyone heals at a different rate. Before resuming activities, a doctor should completely evaluate you, and your certified athletic trainer should clear you using a return-to-play protocol.

By following the advice of your health care team and taking a few extra steps to prepare in the off-season, you can minimize your risk of a sports injury.

For more information and one-click access to a full list of resources available at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, visit its Leader member page.

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