Injuries and Sports

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“Injuries are a part of the game. Every athlete knows that.”–Damian Lillard, NBA All-Star

The professional sports agent was sitting on our sofa presenting the best and worst scenarios for the next level of football after college, the NFL. My husband and I were intently listening, anticipating what insight he would share about how to set expectations. After a brief introduction, this is what he said: “I am knowledgable about managing injuries for my clients; that’s an emphasis of what I do. You do understand that injuries are a part of the game.” I was taken back that this was the first conversation, and the first topic he chose to cover. Before the combine, before the draft, before the first snap at the first practice, he wanted to make it clear that injuries were common to the sports experience.

Injuries are certainly common in contact sports at the higher levels. However, understand that if your child participates in youth sports long enough, there is a very good chance that a sprain, a tweak, a soreness, a fracture, a concussion could impact his/her experience. Injuries must be managed correctly or they can create career-ending damage to an athlete’s body. What basketball player hasn’t sustained a jammed finger? What track athlete hasn’t experienced a sore hamstring or quadriceps muscle? What football player hasn’t tweaked a knee or a shoulder or an ankle? There are multiple examples of common injuries, respective to specific sports, some more serious than others.

Head injuries are not to be taken likely. They can occur in lacrosse, football, soccer, basketball, and other sports. CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) is a relatively new entity that research has uncovered. Repeated head impact over a duration of time may cause permanent damage to the brains of athletes. Protecting brains, and certainly young brains must be a priority in youth sports. Concussion protocols have been developed and you should become informed as a parent at http.//cdc.gov/concussion/headsup/youth.html.

Overuse injuries are more prevalent in athletes who continue in one sport year-round. Softball, baseball, swimming, gymnastics and other sports are examples. A gymnast who performs a repetitive motion on the vaulting horse as she propels off the apparatus can eventually develop a stress fracture in a vertebra. Marathon runners can develop hip and knee injuries. A reputable sports medicine doctor once told me that the body will find a way to rest even if it is through an injury.

What do you tell your young athlete who has broken his arm at the beginning of baseball season? How do you support your basketball player who tears a medial collateral ligament in her knee from an awkward fall in practice, ending her season? In what way do you help frame perspective when your son’s high ankle sprain sidelines him for half the football season? Whenever there were untimely injuries (aren’t they all?) in our children’s sports, we looked for ways to be encouraged. It’s a break in the action that allows reflection and physical rest. It can be a time of clarity, sharpening of focus, modified goals. I told my own child that while he had been building the physical muscles for his sport, the injury would allow God to build spiritual muscles to match. In most instances, healing does come, but the timing is usually slower than desired. Patience and humility are also a part of the good that can result from physical injury.

As a parent, you must be vigilant in these circumstances. Your role is to assure the best medical approach to treatment, and hold not only your athlete but coaches accountable to effective protocols prescribed by knowledgable professionals. Coming back too soon is counterproductive. You will earn your stripes as a parent as everyone grows impatient to return to competitive play.

Key Tips:

  • Injuries in sports whether minor or major will likely impact your child’s experience if he/she plays long enough.
  • Parents have a role to play as athletes deal with injury by seeking expert advice, holding coaches and your child accountable for prescribed treatment, and framing perspective to maximize the good that than come from it.

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