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Monday, Oct. 19, 2020

Staying in t he Game

The Importance of Exercise and Sports in Youth and Young Adults

As sports are ramping back up in select schools and universities in the state, it is important to remember that participation in sports provides numerous benefits, both physically and socially. While these benefits can come with the downside of a sports-related injury, this should not keep our youth on the bench. School-age youth and young adults need regular physical activity, whether through organized sports or pursuit of a personal interest, as exercise enhances and maintains musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health. Organized sports during COVID-19 will and should look different as every possible action to minimize the virus’s spread is important.

There are two types of sports-related injuries: acute injuries and overuse injuries. Acute injuries are usually the result of a single traumatic event, with common injuries including wrist fractures, ankle sprains, hamstring strain and shoulder dislocations. Overuse injuries tend to be more common in sports, but they usually occur over time and are subtle, making them more difficult to diagnose and treat. Overuse injuries result from repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, bones and joints. Examples include tennis elbow, youth pitching elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, jumper’s knee, runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis and shin splints.

Youth sports injuries are nearly impossible to avoid. They can occur for several reasons, including improper training or technique, equipment failure, and anatomic or biomechanical issues of the athlete. Here are a few suggestions to keep your child in the game for life by helping prevent injuries and avoid or reduce long-term complications:

• Be in proper physical condition to play the sport. While children and adolescents are often encouraged to participate in aerobic activities, they can also benefit from strength training activities that help enhance muscle and bone health.

• See a physician for a preseason physical examination.

• Obtain instruction on training and technique, and make sure to follow the rules of the sport. Coaches and trainers are there to teach proper technique, which can help avoid injuries. Young athletes need to listen to their instructions because most overuse injuries occur due to improper technique. Learning how to use athletic equipment properly is also important.

• Wear appropriate protective gear and proper-fitting equipment. Make sure your child’s equipment fits properly and is in good condition – a weekly check can help minimize potential for injury. Just a few examples of protective gear include shin guards for soccer, a hard-shell helmet when facing a baseball or softball pitcher, a helmet and body padding for ice hockey.

• Always warm up before playing. Warm-up time should involve low-impact exercise, such as running in place, that gradually brings the heart rate up. Athletes should also stretch their muscles prior to activity, which will help prevent injury. Stretching should go just beyond the point of resistance and should not include bouncing. Hold stretches for 10-12 seconds.

• Be sure your child cools down properly after activity. Cooling down after play allows the heart rate to gradually return to a resting level. Once again, stretching may be helpful to avoid injury.

• Do not play when in pain or very tired.

• Maintain proper hydration with adequate water or other liquids available during activity. Hydration allows muscles to work properly and helps prevent cramps and spasms.

• Be sure your child cools down properly after activity. Cooling down after play allows the heart rate to gradually return to a resting level. Once again, stretching may be helpful to avoid injury.

While most youth will let you know when they are hurt, if you think your child is prone to “tough it out,” here are a few signs of injury parents and guardians should look out for:

• Avoiding putting weight on a certain body part or favoring one side of the body over the other (limping).

• Appearing to be in pain when using a particular body part.

• Inability to sleep.

• Shortness of breath or trouble breathing during activity.

• Headaches during or after activity.

• Appearing to experience stiffness in the joints or muscles.

• Lightheadedness or dizziness.

• Trouble sitting and/or climbing stairs.

• Inability to feel the fingers or toes.

• Experiencing unusual weakness.

• Irritated skin and/or blisters.

If your child experiences any sharp or stabbing pain while participating in a sport, they should immediately stop the activity. Playing through pain may worsen the injury and will likely cut the season short. If you have any concerns that your child might be injured, speak with a physician or certified athletic trainer immediately. The sooner an injury is diagnosed, the more effectively it can be treated, and the sooner your athlete can return to the game.

Dr. Shane Barton is the chairman of orthopaedic surgery at LSU Health Shreveport, where he has been a member of the faculty since 2005, teaching more than 1,100 medical students and directly supervising more than 125 residents in orthopaedic surgery, family medicine and rheumatology. Dr. Barton specializes in the treatment of pediatric and adult sports-related injuries, as well as complex shoulder, elbow and knee joint reconstruction procedures. Dr. Barton has served as a team physician for several professional athletic teams, including the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox, as well as college and high school teams.


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