Non-stop participation in summer sports can significantly increase the risk of injury for young athletes
With school already out for some or winding down for the rest, kids are left with an entire summer of freedom and a number of options of how to spend their time. But for serious young athletes of any sport, summer is no time to simply kick back and enjoy the nice weather before school starts up again. It’s an opportunity to excel in the respective sport even more.
Between summer travel teams, tournaments and sport-specific camps, many dedicated young athletes will have no problem keeping themselves busy for most of the summer break. While the exercise and competitive nature of sports is beneficial for a number of reasons, 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.
Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation advises coaches and parents to be aware of the importance of adequate rest and to follow these pointers during the summer:
- 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
- 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 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
For more information on how to prevent an overuse injury this summer, visit Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation at any of our four locations in Woodbridge, Union, Somerville or Edison, NJ. Call 732-494-0895 to schedule an appointment.