Kids all over the nation are back at school and settling down to their routines. Some of these adolescents are excited to return to competitive sports. Teen athletes get great satisfaction from playing, and it can be an excellent step on a path to lifelong fitness, but they’re also at risk for injury while practicing or competing. We’d like to help them end the season and the school year healthy, strong and injury-free.
My Injury Inspired My Career
I speak with experience: a severe ankle sprain on the football field introduced me to chiropractic when I was in high school, and sent me down the path I’m on today. Chiropractic helped me recover, and I continued with sports in college while studying biology and chemistry. It’s one of my passions to work with young athletes in service of optimal performance and injury prevention.
Teens Experience Added Risk of Sports Injuries
Teen athletes are at particular risk for musculoskeletal injury for a variety of reasons. Here are some identified by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Their strength is disproportionate to their size
- They tend to disregard restrictions
- They have flexible ligaments and open epiphyses (the end of a long bone, which is either entirely cartilaginous or separated from the shaft by a cartilaginous disk)
- They may present unrecognized congenital problems
- They may lack motivation to work hard
- They are often indifferent to equipment needs
- They often lack adequate supervision
According to academics considering their plight, “young athletes become most vulnerable to serious injury at about 14 years of age, when their physical size and daredevilry belie the immaturity of their muscles and bones.”
At this pivotal time in life, preventing injuries is crucial. While adolescents are famous for their ability to heal quickly, they’re also more vulnerable to injuries–and some of those injuries could have a lifetime of repercussions.
Pre-Season Physical Exam Identifies Vulnerabilities in Teen Athletes
One tool to protect teen athletes is the state-mandated pre-season physical exam. I believe a Doctor of Chiropractic is uniquely qualified to conduct this exam, since we’re focused on the unique biomechanics of the athlete.
Components of my exam include examining the feet and evaluating any imbalances in weight distribution; examining the neck, shoulders, low back, hips, knees and feet for alignment and motion; range-of-motion tests, trigger-point evaluations; and notation of pain or restriction on movements.
After screening for weakness, biomechanical faults, and alignment issues, I offer suggestions for training and other strategies to help overcome these issues.
Avoiding Injury for a Lifetime of Athleticism
For some kids, playing sports in high school is a consuming passion, just like it was for me. Learning about their own bodies from this musculoskeletal perspective can help teens avert injury and re-injury, enjoy a safer high school sports experience, and look forward to a lifetime of satisfaction in their athletic pursuits.