As the new school year kicks off, along with the schoolwork, exams and homework comes an even bigger concern for many parents and students: school sports. With more than 7.8 million students participating in high school athletics since 2016, being a student-athlete is more popular than ever, and for good reason. Sports foster higher grades, provide a great workout, build new relationships, and teach teamwork. But they aren’t without their downsides. Injuries are incredibly common in high school athletics, and over two million high school athletes are injured each year.
Noticing the signs of a sports-related injury is more important than ever, and the risk of students suffering these injuries increases every year. And with each sport posing a set of unique maladies, multi-sport students are at an incredibly high risk. Let’s look at some of the most common high school sports related injuries and inflictions.
Soccer is a very fast-moving sport, and with that comes injuries. Lower extremity injuries are common in soccer. Cartilage tears, ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) sprains, and other types of injuries are serious enough to require surgery. Fractures and bone breaks are common in this sport, with collisions and contact occurring often. Overuse injuries are also great risks, and players are sometimes encouraged to “play through the pain.” This line of thinking and practice should happen under no circumstances. When an already injured player continues to play, the injury could get worse.
Pitchers are most at risk here. Coaches expect more and more out of their pitchers each time they play. As the frequency and quantity of pitches thrown by high school players increases, shoulder and elbow injuries have become more common. The best way to combat this is with proper warm-ups, which include stretching, running and throwing lightly. Players who aren’t old enough to be throwing curveballs shouldn’t attempt to learn them, as this can cause major arm problems that can shorten a player’s career. Additionally, effort should be made to keep the pitch count low. The easiest way to hurt a player’s arm is to have them throw too many pitches without a few days of rest in between.
The most common injuries in football are knee injuries, specifically those that involve the ACL and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), in addition to knee cartilage. If treated poorly, these injuries can shorten the player’s career and possibly even affect them for the rest of their life. Even more dangerous are concussions. Concussions can be sustained through impact with another player or object, and lead to a change in the mental state of the athlete. They can cause dizziness, headaches, tingling, blurry vision, nausea, and sometimes loss of consciousness. If any of these symptoms are noticed, the athlete should stop playing immediately and be checked out by a health care professional. Having a pre-season health evaluation, proper warm-up and cool-down exercises, and wearing well-fitting protective equipment all work together to help prevent these common sports-related injuries.
Field hockey can be unbelievably brutal. Hand and wrist injuries are incredibly common, along with facial, knee, head, ankle, and other injuries as being par for the course. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Many common injuries are the result of ill-fitting protective gear, which can leave the body vulnerable to being hit by the sticks of other players. Well-fitting gear can alleviate a lot of the concerns posed for field hockey players and their parents. Additionally, field hockey is known for being a sport that requires a lot of practice time, which leads to coaches working their players harder than necessary. Always make sure that field hockey players are properly hydrated, and not overworked. If a player is showing signs of being overworked, they must be allowed to rest until they are able to safely play again.
While tennis might not seem like a dangerous sport that can lead to injuries, it certainly does have its share of potential risks. As high school players transition to more competitive play, traditional synthetic gut strings no longer provide enough spin, so players are forced to use the less arm-friendly polyester variety. While polyester strings tend to give players an advantage, they also are incredibly harsh on the arm. And, because high schoolers are still developing physically, these polyester strings can cause major problems like tennis elbow, which is extremely painful and can remove players from play for seasons at a time. This can, however, easily be prevented. While shock absorbers have been proven to be mostly ineffective, switching to a racquet with a lower RA (racquet stiffness) can help immensely, along with using a hybrid string pattern (made from half-polyester and half-synthetic gut or multifilament strings). This combination of using a more flexible racquet and hybrid strings can help prevent a sports-related injury.
Being prepared and knowing the signs of a sports-related injury can make all the difference in a crisis. It can also help to prevent the painful and sometimes devastating injuries that are so common for many students. A full diagnosis, however, should always be conducted by a professional physician.
If you need help with any injury (sports-related or not), or even just have a question about injury prevention, your STAT Health team is always here to help!