Anybody who has ever played sports at a high level knows how detrimental injuries can be. While injuries are more common in sports like football and basketball, even sports that one might not consider ‘risky’ have their fair share. Just ask Tiger Woods and other professionals. At the end of the day, injuries are part of the game; every athlete knows this, and while there are multiple ways to help prevent injuries, it is an everyday challenge for athletes.
As sports are becoming more intense than ever at the youth level, it seems that young athletes are experiencing more and more serious sports injuries. According to Medical News Today, as of 2014 an estimated 5.5 million kids under the age of 18 receive some sort of medical treatment due to a sports related injury every year.
While technology, modern medicine and sports therapy are advancing each year, so is the intensity and competitiveness of youth sports. Some programs run lengthy two-three hour practices three times a week, plus a weekend tournament. When you consider that seasons can range from seven to 10 months, no wonder youth injuries are at an all-time high.
For most athletes, regardless of the age, the offseason isn’t really used as a break. This is where the camps are run, the trainers hired, the circuits made. For some, the offseason is actually more important than the season itself.
Often times young kids don’t know their own bodies yet, which is often their downfall when it comes to injuries. By the time one reaches high school, athletes should know their bodies well enough to realize when something doesn’t feel right, when to keep pushing and when to rest up.
Another reason why injuries occur in children is that in some sports, the technique they’re using is improper, which leads to damage in certain joints and muscles. For example, many young pitchers who don’t know how to properly throw a breaking ball experience elbow trouble. Baseball Canada tested a rule in 2008 where curveballs were not to be introduced until the age of 14, in hopes to protect young arms from injury.
So how do young athletes protect themselves in order to extend their careers? Simple things like drinking water during practice and games will help keep your muscles hydrated and can help prevent cramps or strains. Rest is extremely important as well. Warm-ups can help athletes get their bodies prepared for performance, while cooldowns can help prevent post-game soreness.
Ultimately, no matter how much you prepare — or how much you don’t — you really don’t have the final say when it comes to injuries. While there are a number of measures one can take to reduce the risk, the bottom line is that injuries are a part of the game, and athletes of all ages are well aware of that fact. There are only so many stretches you can do before you start playing. The rest will take care of itself.