COLORADO SPRINGS — If you have a high school or middle school athlete in your home, now is a good time to talk about preventing common injuries as fall sports are winding down and winter sports are getting underway.
Shane Noffsinger, is a physical therapist with Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Springs who says, “I would say that overuse is probably the most common thing we see as sports ramp up pretty quickly and the intensities and volumes hit pretty hard. That is when the overuse injuries can start coming up.”
If overuse and fatigue injuries are ignored Shane says those can often lead to much bigger problems. “In the majority of injuries we see like ankle sprains and ACL tears I think a lot of those are fatigue-induced. Kids just aren't quite ready for those sports and they're tissues can't tolerate it because they're just not as physically prepared as they could be.”
One big key to helping your student athlete avoid injury is making sure they begin preparing for the sport they participate in before practices for the sport’s season says Shane. “For younger kids, keep them as active as possible. Expose them to a variety of sports at a young age and keep them active. Physical in-activity is a risk factor in itself to injury. For older kids, it's paying attention and asking them questions as to whether or not they are experiencing pain or have an injury so you can get them into physical therapy. I really don't think there is anything too small that we can't address and make sure that (kids) are fully prepared to go play sports and do the activities they like to do.”
Shane also says make sure your kids are aware of dynamic warm up principles that feature less static stretching and more functional movement. “There are a few really good free resources out there that have some evidence backing them up that can reduce the risk of injury, there is the PEP program [health.usf.edu], which stands for prevent injury enhance performance. There is FIFA 11+ [fifamedicalnetwork.com] plan which is really popular in the soccer world. Both have some research that shows the programs can reduce the risk of injuries and you can go online and download them for free.”
When your child is in the off season for their sport Shane says to keep them active to avoid injuries. “If kids can get involved in any type of program that is developing their fitness and strength to prepare them for their sport that they're about to play, whether it’s a fall, winter, spring or summer sport, I don’t think you can start too early. Consistent activity throughout the year is the most important thing because it's the ups and downs in physical activity that I see causing a lot of problems.”
If your active child experiences an injury Shane says remember that physical therapy a key step to both healing and injury prevention for kids of any age. “In our program we treat kids mostly in the middle school and high school range. We will see some younger kids for example competing at a younger age in gymnastics, and some older kids who are getting ready to go play college sports. In general, any kid that is injured or experiencing aches and pains, that is the prime time to have them in physical therapy. The reason is because any time you get injured, it automatically puts you at risk to have another injury. Even a simple ankle sprain causes weakness and compensation that can lead to injury elsewhere, another ankle sprain for example. I think that physical therapy is really important to address those impairments and get kids back to normal so they can go out and not have another injury.”