Are you the type of parent who tirelessly cheers for your child from the sidelines? Do you have visions of your son or daughter making that game-winning shot and being paraded around the field on the shoulders of their teammates?
But there’s another side to this story. You’re probably also the type of parent who worries about sports injuries that require treatment from a sports medicine specialist or an orthopedic surgeon.
You’re not alone. Unfortunately, your son or daughter is not alone, either.
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of high school athletes, and as you might expect, this also means there’s been an increase in the number of sports accidents.
The result is a staggering 3.5 million injuries each year. In addition, one-third of all childhood injuries are sports-related, according to information from Stanford University.
In fact, would you be surprised to realize that teenage athletes are injured at about the same rate as professional athletes? That’s the news from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. What separates these injuries is that teens are often still growing, so in many ways, these injuries can be more difficult to treat.
As a parent, one of the most frightening thoughts is that your child will become one of those statistics.
Wondering what injuries to look out for? We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common ones and how our sports medicine specialists and orthopedic surgeons can help.
The Most Common Injuries Among High School Athletes
Sprains and Strains
By far the most common injuries are sprains and strains. Not sure of the difference? That’s understandable. It can be easy to get the two confused. The Mayo Clinic puts it this way:
A sprain injures the tissue that connects bones together. A strain involves an injury to a muscle or the tissue that attaches the muscle to the bone. Symptoms include pain, swelling and bruising. Your child may have also heard a “pop” when the injury occurred.
Growth Plate Fractures
Fractures are other common injuries, and the part of the bone called the growth plate is the most likely to fracture.
Why? Well, the bones in teens and pre-teens are still developing. Growth plates are where cartilage tissue is near the end of a long bone. When your child enters adulthood, these plates become hard bone. This process is called ossification.
It’s extremely important to get care for these bones from an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine specialist. Any injury that disturbs the plate’s natural “development” can cause bone deformity. No one wants that.
How many hours have you spent taking your high school student to and from athletic practice? (Well, at least until your teen gets a driver’s license.) You have an idea of how often and how long they practice. This doesn’t count other sports activities such as playing a game of pick-up basketball or swimming during summer vacation.
These hours add up, so it should be no surprise that overuse injuries are also very commonly seen in sports medicine clinics. This includes stress fractures.
What is a stress fracture?
When muscles are no longer able to take the impact of exercise, the bones take on the added stress. As a result, they become strained and develop tiny breaks, which are stress fractures.
While any sport can result in a stress fracture, they are more likely to occur in sports that require lots of running and jumping, such as basketball, gymnastics and track.
How can a stress fracture be prevented?
Conditioning and cross-training can go a long way toward minimizing the chances of getting stress fracture. Be sure your teen is sticking to age-appropriate sports, and make sure their coach has them warm up and cool down during practice. Appropriate shoes and hydration are musts.
If you notice your teen limping or they complain about persistent pain, schedule an appointment with one of our sports medicine experts.
Head and Neck Injuries
Some sports are more dangerous than others. These are the high-contact sports such as football or events where your teen is in midair, such as gymnastics or pole vaulting. These serious injuries can be devastating. If your teen is on the football or ice hockey team, please make sure they are using all the protective equipment required.
Some Useful Ways to Avoid Injuries
Ideally, following all safety guidelines means that your teen can avoid injuries, or at least dramatically reduce their chances of having a serious one. Make sure your teen:
- Wears all necessary protective equipment. This means mouth guards, helmets and knee pads.
- Understands the importance of warming up and cooling down, even if just exercising at home.
- Informs you of any pain they are experiencing, even if they believe it is “minor.”
- Doesn’t participate in sports until they receive a physical and approval from their doctor.
Our Sports Medicine Specialists and Orthopedic Surgeons Provide World-Class Care
When your teen does a flip on the balance beams or charges forward when the ball is snapped, it’s a little bit frightening, isn’t it? You hold your breath a little, hoping that your son or daughter does so safely, and that they can make that game-winning play without injury.
Sadly, injuries do happen in high school sports, and they do with alarming frequency. That’s why we’ve dedicated our orthopedic services to help student athletes overcome their injuries. We also help ensure that they do not go back to the field or court unless it is safe for them to do so.
After all, we’re partners in your care. For your child, you deserve nothing less.
We hope your son or daughter is never injured. But if they are, please contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. Getting treatment early will help you avoid serious complications later.
Conway Medical Center is a trusted leader in healthcare and has served the medical needs of Horry County and surrounding communities for nearly a century.
American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. “High School Sports Injuries.” Online.
Mayo Clinic. “Sprains.” Online.
Stanford University Health Center. “Sports Injury Statistics.” Online.