Staying in the game: protecting your child athlete from injury
Young athletes long to be just like their favourite sports stars. What child doesn’t dream to skate like Crosby, dunk like Lebron or drill the ball into the back of the goal like Christine Sinclair? It wasn’t until recently though that children and adolescents have begun to train like their heroes. This poses a problem as children involved with sports are developing injuries at a much higher rate than in the past.
A lot of these injuries are due to repetitive stress and overuse, sometimes called repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). This has a lot to do with kids playing the same sport all year round. In the past, it was the norm for a child to play one sport in summer, soccer for instance, and a different one, like hockey, in the winter. In today’s age, it is quite common for a child to specialize in one sport in the hopes of gaining a competitive edge.
Single sport athletes are at risk of overuse injuries because their muscle tissue becomes damaged when they repeat the same motion over and over again. The most common injuries are sprains and strains, but other injuries include more serious problems such as fractures, dislocations or tendon ruptures. A child is especially at risk of these injuries because their muscles aren’t as developed as an adult’s are.
What can you do to help your child?
Allow for adequate recovery time
Sleep, eating the right foods and drinking plenty of water are important for everyone, but especially to your young athlete, whose body is still developing. These all go along with allowing for enough recovery time. This means, for example, when hockey season ends, wait a month or so to enroll them in hockey school or power skating. Your child, led by their coach or trainer, should also be involved in some sort of dynamic stretching before and after any activity as well to help minimize injury.
Encourage them to try a different sport in the offseason
It is important for kids to try different sports, especially at a young age.
While some believe the only way to become elite at a sport is to play it all year round, recent studies have actually proven the opposite. A 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine survey found that 88 per cent of college athletes surveyed participated in more than one sport as a child. Kids who play many different sports usually develop better coordination and motor skills than their single-sport counterparts.
What can I do if I suspect my child already has an overuse injury?
Taking your child to a chiropractor is a good place to start. Your chiropractor is trained to treat RSIs in all age groups and can provide advice on achieving a balanced health lifestyle.
Depending on the injury, your chiropractor may suggest ultrasound, electric stimulation or some form of deep tissue therapy such as Active Release Therapy or Myofascial Release Therapy.
Doctors of chiropractic can do more than correct problems for your child as well. They can also help improve their performance on and off the field by helping their bodies to function at their optimum level.