A local orthopedic surgeon provides useful tips on keeping your athletic kids healthy and uninjured.
From soccer to surfing, kids in the South Bay are active year-round. Unfortunately, sports-related injuries do happen from time to time, which is why we reached out to board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Peter Borden for a few suggestions on how children can prevent these types of injuries from occurring.
Dr. Borden, who deals with athletes of all ages, notices two types of injuries amongst young athletes. There are the occasional traumatic injuries, he notes, “where kids are usually playing sports or falling off skateboards or bikes, and those types of injuries are fractures or meniscus tears.”
And there are also the repetitive-use trauma injuries, which Dr. Borden notes are something he deals with quite frequently here in the South Bay. These injuries occur when a child practices a sport at a high level and high intensity around the year—say, for example, a child who plays soccer at high school and also on a competitive club team.
“They have a higher frequency of practice,” he says, “and due to a higher level of competition, these kids are suffering injuries which their bodies would normally heal.” So when a child practices one sport year-round at a high intensity with little rest, there’s a chance that he or she may overuse certain muscles, tendons or joints.
Because club sports are so competitive, these children often choose to not take breaks, which means these injuries can keep happening. “We see a lot of young soccer players with tendinitis-type injuries of the knees, young baseball players with problems in the shoulder and elbow,” Dr. Borden says.
He adds that children all grow at different rates. With younger children who are still growing, they have open growth plates in and around their joints. The growth plate is an area of tissue that’s still growing, typically located near the ends of long bones in children and adolescents, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. If a child puts too much stress on his or her body and is not allowed enough rest in order to fully recuperate, this may cause stress to the growth plates, which can lead to future problems as an adult.
However, it’s important to note that injuries do happen—they’re simply a part of being active and participating in a sport. Furthermore, Dr. Borden notes, it’s often difficult for young athletes to take time off from their favorite club sport.
“It’s very hard for kids in club sports to sit out. Sometimes they have a hard time with that. Once they recover, they go back to their initial level of activity and poor mechanics, and they then re-injure themselves,” he says.
In order to prevent repetitive-use injuries, it’s important for young athletes to stay in decent, all-around shape throughout the year. That means focusing on training all of their muscles, especially ones that they may not use in their main sport of choice.
Furthermore, maintaining proper flexibility through stretching as well as proper nutrition can help not only prevent repetitive-use injuries, it can also help limit the amount of time needed to rehabilitate certain injuries. Dr. Borden adds that if a young athlete injures a specific muscle or joint, it’s crucial that they seek a medical specialist immediately.
“The best treatment is to see a specialist that specializes in that particular body part as soon as possible,” he says.
He stresses that proper body mechanics are absolutely crucial when it comes to reducing injuries. “If you have a gymnast, the proper way to dismount can prevent injuries to the ankle or the back. Or proper swing mechanics can help to reduce undue stress in muscles for golfers.”
By staying in shape, eating right, stretching and focusing on perfecting form and body mechanics, a young athlete can reduce their chance of incurring a repetitive-type injury. Dr. Borden says a child shouldn’t be discouraged from practicing a sport year-round, as long as they also take care of themselves.