Fall Sports and Pediatric Sports Injuries
With the calendar about to click over into October, it’s hard to believe kids have already been back in school for more than a month! Fall sports are in full swing and nearing playoff time, while winter sports aren’t that far off on the horizon.
Yep—it’s an exciting time to be a young athlete. Football. Soccer. Volleyball. Cross country. Basketball season is right around the corner. Plus, while the weather’s still nice, kids are still engaged in all kinds of less structured outdoor play—hiking, running, tennis, you get the idea.
That’s why it’s so devastating for a young person when a foot or ankle sports injury ends their season prematurely. They’ve been waiting all year—maybe their entire life—for this season. Who wants it to end with an ankle sprain right before the playoffs?
Common Youth Sports Lower Extremity Injuries
Kids are susceptible to both traumatic injuries (i.e., “single-instant” injuries that occur after a collision or bad fall) and overuse injuries that develop slowly over time.
Some of the most common foot and ankle problems we see in youth athletes include:
- Ankle sprains. The most common traumatic injury for youth and adults alike. For kids, a brief period of immobilization plus a little rehab is usually all that’s necessary. However, it must be taken seriously. An ankle sprain that does not heal properly will greatly increase the risk of re-injury and development of chronic instability and arthritis.
- Heel pain. During childhood and adolescence, the heel bone is especially vulnerable. The relatively growth plate, responsible for forming new bone tissue, is exposed and susceptible to inflammation and irritation. Pain will persist and can lead to more significant complications if you don’t treat it.
- Other soft tissue injuries, including ligament tears, tendinitis, and shin pain.
- Broken bones.
A Quick Look at the Numbers
Not too long ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) took a closer at youth sports injury rates and dug up some pretty startling statistics. [Source]
- Each year in the United States, it’s estimated that high school athletes will suffer 2 million total sports related injuries. That’s in addition to the 3.5 million kids under age 14 that will receive medical treatment for a sports-related injury.
- Almost two thirds of injuries occur in training or practice, with only one third occurring during games. Despite this, many parents and coaches unfortunately to not enforce the same safety standards during practice that they would for competition.
- More than half of youth sports injuries are considered preventable.
That’s not exactly great news about the current state of affairs. But it also offers some hope, too. With a little bit of additional care and foresight, you can help your little one significantly reduce his or her injury risk.
Staying Safer on the Field
Want to help your child reduce his or her risk of a sport-related injury? Here are a few common-sense tips to help.
- Get a physical examination before beginning the sports season. Physicals aren’t just about determining whether or not your child is healthy enough to play. A good physician may also make specific recommendations to help your child play as safely as possible.
- Invest in a good pair of sport-specific shoes. Your child needs shoes that fit their feet and support the specific needs of the sport they will be playing. Ill-fitting and improper athletic shoes is a major contributor to preventable injuries among youth athletes.
- Make sure your child goes slow at first during training, especially if they are just starting a new sport or haven’t been doing much exercise or training over the summer. Even young bodies need time to adjust to new challenges.
- Don’t “go easy” on enforcing safety standards during training and practice. Most injuries occur outside of competition. The same safety and equipment protocols should be maintained.
- Avoid sport specialization at a young age. It’s okay if your child is really passionate about one specific sport, but you should still encourage them to play other sports or cross train in other kinds of athletic activities—particularly ones that are low-impact or work other areas of the body. Overtraining and overspecialization can not only burn kids out, but lead to a high rate of overuse injuries.
- Build rest time into their schedules. We know kids can get restless, but they also need time to rest and recovery. Make sure your child is getting at least one total rest day per week in season. They should also take a least a month off from rigorous training every year.
- Make sure your child is preparing themselves physical before, during, and after games. Eat healthy. Always warm up and cool down. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and focused.
- Be mindful of the playing conditions and do not play in dangerous situations. Extreme heat, fields that are slick with rain, poor quality terrain, etc. should be avoided.
- Don’t let your child “play through pain.” No competitive youngster likes to come out of the game, but you really must insist on open communication whenever your child is hurting. Playing through pain never does any good—it will just prolong the pain, and exposure your child to a higher risk of severe injury.
Treatment for Fall Sports Injuries
If your child’s feet are hurting due to a minor injury, remember RICE—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Give them a few days off with no sports activity. Use ice, compression, and elevation (along with OTC painkillers if safe for your child—talk to your pediatrician) to manage pain and swelling. For minor injuries this may be all your child needs to feel better.
Foot injuries that are more serious or produce persistent or recurring pain should be evaluated by a foot and ankle specialist as quickly as possible.
We love working with kids and youth athletes at Canyon Foot & Ankle, and providing the advanced treatments they need to meet their short and long term goals:
- Eliminating their pain
- Getting them back on the field as quickly as possible
- Ensuring proper, complete healing and rehab so injuries are less likely to recur or become chronic.
We can achieve this not only through traditional methods and surgery, but also advanced tools you’d expect to find in a big city hospital, like MLS laser therapy. And we are constantly researching, training, and developing our skillset according to the latest evidence-based methods and protocols.
We do this because we believe your child deserves access to the best treatments, best doctors, and best technology no matter who they are or where they level—even right here in Twin Falls.
To schedule an appointment, please call the office of your choice today:
- Twin Falls: (208) 733-0436
- Burley: (208) 678-2727