For some children and young adults, summer isn’t a time for just sitting by the pool and enjoying the freedom of no school for a few months. In the minds of avid young athletes, it’s a chance to participate in their respective sports as much as possible.
With summer travel teams, tournaments and sport-specific camps, many dedicated youths will have no problem keeping busy for most of the summer break. While the exercise and competitive nature of sports is great for keeping active and in good shape, on the downside, this non-stop participation can also be dangerous by pushing kids too far and potentially leading to an overuse injury.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over five million children under 18 will suffer a sports-related injury each year, and half of these are due to overuse. Summer is a prime time for overuse injuries to occur, because instead of allowing the bodies of these developing athletes to rest and recover, they’re being worked even harder, sometimes to a breaking point.
Summer camps and travel teams exist for practically any sport or activity, but overuse injuries are more prevalent in some than others. Basketball players tend to experience Achilles (above heel) or patellar (knee) tendinitis, while baseball and softball players (especially pitchers) often suffer elbow and shoulder injuries like tears of the rotator cuff or labrum. Overuse injuries are also common in football, soccer and lacrosse, but can occur in any sport in which a young athlete overtrains.
At Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates, we want both parents and coaches to be aware of the importance of taking sufficient time off each summer and to follow these pointers in order to ensure proper precautions are taken to avoid injury:
- Parents should limit the amount of time of sport involvement and make it mandatory that 2-3 months are taken off from a specific sport each year
- Encourage stretching before/after all game play to keep muscles loose
- Coaches should build recovery time into all practice programs year-round so muscles have a chance to heal, rest and recharge
- Strength training can help young athletes develop muscle/bone structure
- Consider an injury prevention or conditioning program designed by a physical therapist to ensure all precautions are taken
- Encourage young athletes to listen to their bodies by being aware of any pain or soreness and not pushing through it when they notice it
- If an injury of any degree does occur, athletes should be taken out of the game or practice immediately and evaluated before returning to play
If you’re concerned with your child’s injury risk and if they’re getting enough time off this summer, visit Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at either of our two locations in Shelby or Kings Mountain, NC. Call 704-471-0001 for more information or to schedule an appointment.