Fall is one of the best seasons of the year. The temperature drops and the air takes on a certain crispness that we don’t really experience at any other time during the rest of the year. This is a time that marks the start of football and other fall sports. It also marks the time for many of our patients’ football-related injuries.
Did you know that football is the leading cause of school sports injuries? According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2007, more than 920,000 young people 18 years and under were treated for football-related injuries in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics. We hate to think of football injuries when we send our kids off to play sports or as coaches when we send our athletes onto the field. But being aware of possible injuries and knowing the best ways to prevent them can go a long way in keeping student athletes safe.
Of course, as we well know, the most important thing to help reduce football-related injury is proper gear. The basics include a helmet and shoulder, hip, tail, and knee pads. Pants, thigh guards, a jersey, mouth guard, and an athletic supporter are also extremely important. Shoes and proper eye wear are a must. (Students and parents should check that any eye wear is made from non-shattering glass. Contacts may be preferred in this case.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) note the strategies below to help parents and coaches aid young athletes in preventing football-related injuries
Each student athlete needs to complete a physical. Generally this is performed at the start of a season. It will be used to analyze the readiness of the student and identify any possible condition that may impact participation.
Student athletes should always warm up and stretch before and after playing a sport, especially as the weather gets colder. Guidelines indicate that athletes should warm up with light exercise for about three to five minutes. Additionally, they should slowly and gently stretch the muscles to be exercised. Holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds is advised.
To help athletes stay in top shape during the fall and winter months it is recommended that the student remains active during the summer months – so transitioning to practices and games won’t be as rough.
When practices do start, students need to take frequent water breaks to prevent dehydration and overheating.
Student athletes are pushed to be the best they can be throughout the season, but it is important to recognize early signs of pain and possible discomfort. Teach students to be aware of those signs and let them know they need to alert a coach, parent, or trainer when they experience any type of pain. Many times severe injuries may be prevented if early signs are noticed.
If an injury does occur, many athletes are anxious to return to the field and rejoin their teammates. They might feel the rest of the season may be dependent on them. But to be safe, we encourage a physician approve the student athlete’s return to the game. Returning too quickly may result in re-injury or making a current injury much more complicated and difficult to heal. Learn more about our post on Returning to the Game.
Tips and guidelines noted above were found through the AAOS (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons). For additional information regarding sports-related orthopedic services, please contact our OAM staff.