A return to school also means a return to sports and the potential for injuries … especially for those who haven’t been as active during the summer break.
“Returning to sports after a long break can bring added risk of sprains, tears or fractures if proper precautions aren’t taken,” says Dr. Christopher Hubbard, MD. Board-certified in orthopedic surgery from the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, Dr. Hubbard specializes in the foot and ankle, including sports injuries of those areas. He is a physician with Atlantic Medical Group Orthopedics at Wayne, and is on-staff at Atlantic Health System’s Chilton Medical Center. “If a child has been in the house playing video games, it’s important that they adequately prepare themselves for activity on the playing field.”
To help prevent back-to-school sports injuries, Dr. Hubbard offers these suggestions:
- Get a preseason sports physical. A preseason physical can assess areas of concern prior to activity and determine whether a young athlete is fit to play. For children up to sixth or seventh grade, this can typically be handled by a primary care physician. For older children, physicals are frequently done through the school, where an affiliated physician experienced in sports medicine can perform sports-specific examinations.
- Stay hydrated. It may be fall, but summer temperatures have not subsided. Drink plenty of water before, during and after physical activity. Dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, heavy perspiration, or dilated pupils are signs of heat-related illness.
- Warm up and cool down. Warm up muscles with active stretches, such as jogging or jumping jacks, as well as passive stretches in each major muscle group to prevent injury. Stretching, as well as foam rolling, after activity can reduce muscle soreness and improve flexibility.
- Eat a balanced diet. Consume a well-balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins at regular intervals, around the same time each day.
- Get plenty of sleep. Rest between practices, games and events is essential for recovery. A lack of sleep and muscle fatigue predispose an athlete to injury. Overuse injuries, caused by too many sports and not enough sleep, are most common among young athletes.
- Get the proper equipment. Prior to the start of practice, ensure that your child has all the necessary protective equipment: helmet, goggles, mouthguard, pads, shoes, etc.
- Learn the proper technique. Make sure your child knows the proper technique for throwing, tackling, kicking, catching, etc. Using proper form will help reduce the risk of concussion, sprains, tears and broken bones.
If parents notice a change in their athlete’s technique (such as the way they run or throw, persistent pain, swelling, or joint instability), it may be time to consult an orthopedist. “Small, lingering injuries can become bigger issues if not managed properly,” comments Dr. Hubbard. “We work closely with primary care providers, high school trainers, and physical therapists to ensure that patients of all ages receive the quality and continuity of care they expect and deserve.”