7 Ways to protect the backs of young athletes
Young athletes are pushing themselves harder than ever nowadays but because they’re young parents may assume they’re resilient and relatively immune to back injuries. What may seem like “growing pains” or just a little too much exercise may in fact be something more serious developing.
In fact according to a recent study in Sports Health between 10 and 15 percent of young athletes experience lower back pain. That number can be higher for those who participate in certain sports like gymnastics ice-skating football or cheerleading. And it’s not just on-the-field falls or collisions that cause back problems; often it’s the repetitive overstretching and flexing of the back that’s the culprit.
Physicians caution that a young athlete may not even have symptoms of a back injury at the beginning. Your child may simply complain of some mild stiffness or soreness. But the problem may be serious and if left unattended can progress to something much more severe. Bottom line: Back pain needs to be taken seriously. Here are seven tips to protect your young athlete.
- Warm up. Regardless of age athletes need to warm up their muscles before vigorous exercise. Stretching and bending should become a regular part of a pre-activity routine. Basic exercises like toe touches or stretching-and-holding should be combined with jumping jacks or other low-stress movements to get the body loosened up before the game or performance.
- Get enough rest and take a break. Poor sleep habits and tired muscles are known to increase the risk of getting hurt. Fatigue and over training are quite common. It’s also recommended that parents insist on an “off season” where the student athlete takes a break from the regular sports activity. This will allow the body to recover between seasons.
- Get a regular physical. Before the new season starts or school resumes make sure the student gets a physical exam. This will ensure that the athlete is fit enough to return to the sport of choice and doesn’t inadvertently make an existing undiagnosed injury worse.
- Stay hydrated. While drinking enough water is important to avoid heat stress lack of hydration can also cause painful back spasms and cramping. Make sure the athlete has plenty to drink before beginning the sporting activity and provide regular hydration rest breaks throughout.
- Get the right shoes. Good quality shoes don’t only support the feet and legs they also cushion the back from stress especially when the sport involves vigorous jarring motions like running or jumping. Investing in the right footwear can help improve performance while protecting the spine from unnecessary strain.
- Pay attention to technique. There’s a right way to move in every sport. Make sure your student athlete knows what that is and that he or she follows it every single time. Not sure if the movements are being done correctly? Take a video and have the coach or trainer watch it in slow motion with you.
- Don’t wait if you suspect an injury. If your young athlete is complaining of pain or stiffness in the back continuing to play with that condition can greatly worsen it. Young people sometimes try to compensate for back injuries by putting strain on other parts of their bodies which can create even more problems. Get ice on the area and see a doctor as quickly as possible.
Follow doctor’s orders
Every athlete knows that he or she must follow the instructions provided by the coach. The same holds true when under a physician’s treatment for a back injury. While dedicated young athletes may be itching to return to the game sports injuries need time to heal.
Medical professionals will generally advise that there must be a good pain-free range of motion before going back to the sport and that the athlete take time to work up to the previous level of activity. This will ensure that your young athlete doesn’t suffer from a re-injury that could sideline them for good.
Contact Reid Health today to make sure your student athlete is fit and ready for this year’s season.