How to Gear up for an Injury Free Fall Sports Season
August 20, 2021
According to data from the National Safety Council, young people aged 5 to 14 account for 50% of football injuries, 45% of soccer injuries, and 40% of lacrosse and rugby injuries treated in emergency rooms in 2017. Another statistic to note is that each year about 1.35 million student-athletes suffer injuries while playing sports. With this data in mind, it is important that while students are practicing for their fall sports, they should also be practicing good habits to prevent injury, especially after the long summer break or even longer break due to the pandemic.
Many fall sports including soccer, football, and cross country have running at their core. Other sports like tennis, lacrosse, and volleyball focus more on strong, repetitive motions. Both strength and cardiovascular training are essential before and during the fall season to ensure safety and to decrease the chance of injury.
Types of Injury
One of the most common injuries seen during fall sports is concussions. In a recent study, the Brain Injury Research Institute estimated that 1.6 to 3.8 million athletes suffer from concussions annually. In sports like football where there is a high level of contact and soccer where the head is used in play, any hits to the head should be taken seriously due to the possibility of a brain injury. Playing through a concussion can lead to a more serious injury, so if an athlete is showing signs of headache, nausea or vomiting, confusion, ringing in the ears, fatigue, or head/eye pain when exposed to bright light they should seek help. If an athlete has had more than one concussion, they may also need to discuss further safety measures to avoid long-term brain distress.
Fractures, or a bone break, are also common and can include several different types, including:
Open Fractures - the bone pokes through the skin
Comminuted Fractures - a bone that has been broken more than once
Complete Fractures - the bone breaks in two
Bowing Fractures - the bone bends but doesn’t snap, typically limited to children
Greenstick Fractures - one side of the bone is cracked, while the other remains intact
These require immediate attention and often need a long break from play.
Strains happen from sudden strange movements or overuse of a muscle. Symptoms of a strain include swelling, stiffness, cramping, trouble moving, or feeling a pop. Strains should be given rest so that athletes don’t experience a worse injury from overexertion, as well as elevation and icing.
Sprains often occur in the ankle, wrist, or knee and are partial or complete tears of the ligament within a joint. They typically happen when a part of the body is twisted in an awkward way, for example, if landing incorrectly when kicking a ball. Signs of a sprain are a popping sound at the time of injury, pain in the area, swelling or bruising, difficulty walking, or a limited range of motion.
Most sprains are minor, however, an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is a common and severe injury that requires rehabilitation and surgery. An ACL tear affects the ligament that stabilizes the knee.
Strains and minor sprains are similar injuries and can be treated and healed with appropriate Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation - PRICE.
Tennis elbow doesn’t only occur in athletes on the tennis courts, repetitive use of the elbow in any sport can create small tears in the ligamines, leading to pain and inflammation.
Runners often can experience shin splints from overuse. Shin Splints is an injury of the soft tissues that hold the muscle to the bone and is caused by a rapid increase in intensity or frequency of running, improper shoes, training on hard services like concrete, or flat feet. While most commonly seen in cross country runners, shin splints can show up in any sport that involves a high amount of running like soccer or field hockey. Stretching before practice and making sure to rest between sessions can help prevent shin splints. Making sure to replace shoes regularly, about every 300-500 miles is also beneficial.
Rest and icing typically heal shin splints, however, in some cases, athletes need further treatment. These cases include: when a doctor suspects a stress fracture, tendonitis develops, or if shin splints are incorrectly diagnosed for a chronic exertional compartment syndrome where pressure builds up in the muscles.
It is estimated that about 40% of all sports injuries are knee injuries. Runner's knee or Patellofemoral Syndrome is an injury that causes pain when the cartilage in the kneecap becomes irritated, worn, or soft, leading to a shifting of the kneecap’s position and poor alignment. Volleyball players can experience this due to their repetitive crouching or squatting motions, however, any athlete who repeatedly moves in a way where the kneecap rubs against the leg bone can experience damage to the tissue. Other symptoms include the knee-buckling or making grinding and popping sounds. The PRICE method can also help with these symptoms, as well as kinesiology taping or bracing and physical therapy focusing on strengthening the knee, core, and surrounding muscle groups.
Simple things can help decrease the chance of a fall sport-related injury including getting a physical before the season starts to ensure health, stretching and warming up, cross-training to strengthen all muscle groups, investing in good footwear and proper protective equipment, and fueling an athlete’s body correctly. When possible, it is also beneficial to avoid concrete and to exercise on well-maintained grass or soft track surfaces.
It is also important for every athlete to remember to speak up when they are feeling pain, rest after an injury, and enjoy downtime.
Following these guidelines can prepare the body and keep young athletes off the bench this season.
If your student-athlete is experiencing pain or an injury due to a fall sport, or if you have any questions about keeping them healthy, reach out to our team to schedule an appointment!