High school sports programs are a fantastic part of the overall high school experience. Athletes have the opportunity to challenge themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally by playing a sport they love. While athletics offers many positive aspects, the risk of injury is always a negative factor that can have a devastating impact on adolescent athletes. Parents and students can minimize risk by learning about the different injuries that affect student athletes and how to prevent them.
No matter the sport, physical activity can lead to damage, whether it be a cut or a bruise, or an internal injury such as a sprain or a fracture. School sports injuries fall into five main categories.
- Acute Injuries – these are injuries caused by trauma to the body. During play, an athlete may come into contact with another player, an object on the field or sideline, or a piece of sports equipment. The resulting injuries can range from bruising and lacerations to more serious damage such as muscle sprains or broken bones.
- Overuse Injuries – these types of injuries occur over time, when an athlete places significant and repeated stress on a body part during practice or play. Routine physical activity impacts all parts of the body including muscles, joints, and bones. Overuse injuries are typically sports-specific, such as shoulder damage in swimmers, wrist injuries for gymnasts, and elbow strain for baseball players. The most common overuse injury is a stress fracture, caused by tension or strain on a bone during its natural remodeling process. This weakens the bone and causes fracturing.
- Growth Plate Injuries – this type of injury is less common and typically affects athletes who play high contact sports. Growth plates are sections of cartilage at the ends of major bones. As a child develops into adulthood, the cartilage hardens and turns to bone. Since growth plates are weaker than hardened bone, they are more susceptible to damage when an adolescent athlete plays a high contact or high impact sport. Growth plate injuries can lead to deformities in the way the bones grow and develop.
- Concussions – this type of injury directly affects an athlete’s brain. Concussions are caused by a head impact strong enough to move the brain inside the skull. Concussions are specifically dangerous because they are a mild form of traumatic brain injury which, if left undiagnosed or untreated, can have a lasting impact on an athlete’s mental capabilities.
- Catastrophic Sports Injuries – these are the most damaging type of injury because they affect an athlete’s spinal cord or brain. The risk of a catastrophic injury is present in many different sports, making it especially important for athletes to follow all safety precautions and wear appropriate safety gear.
Sports and injuries go hand-in-hand, but many injuries can be prevented by taking the proper precautions. Prevention is a team effort involving athletes, parents, and coaching staff. Athletes who train and condition their bodies properly, use the right equipment, and follow set safety regulations can dramatically lower their risk for lasting injuries.
Parents can help by educating themselves and their student athletes on sport specific risks and precautions, as well as limiting the number of sports their athlete plays over the course of the school year. Coaches can help prevent injuries through proper training techniques and by providing immediate attention and treatment to an athlete who may be injured.
If your adolescent athlete has been injured during play or practice, we’re here to help. At Tatlow, Gump, Faiella & Wheelan we represent athletes and their families facing serious sports injuries in Kansas and Missouri. We work hard to get you the justice your athlete deserves. Call 800-264-3455 to learn your options.