He loved playing football under the Friday night lights. The year was 1995 and Jacob Dewberry had just entered his junior year at Metro Christian High School. It was a cool, sunny September Tuesday afternoon and football practice was almost over. Twenty-two players lined up to participate in a scrimmage and Dewberry, playing tailback, was ready for the handoff. Dewberry loved playing football, but after this particular scrimmage, everything would change. Dewberry took the ball and was immediately speared by a defensive tackle. He fell to the ground, clutching his elbow. "I had never felt so much pain in my life," Dewberry said. "Right then, I knew my season was over."
Dewberry's football career was over and after experiencing numbness in his left pinky and ring finger for weeks, he went to the doctor and was told, at the age of seventeen, that he had torn a piece of his cartilage along the Ulnar nerve and was going to need Tommy John surgery. Today, Dewberry can hardly throw a football and his elbow still gives him problems. Athletes place their bodies on the line for the sake of glory and entertainment. Eventually an athlete's body simply wears out. Or, like Dewberry, athletes can sustain gruesome injuries at the hands of others and they are never the same.
No athlete wants to look like a wimp. They don't want to sit out games and miss valuable playing time, but athletes need to know its okay to sit out and reevaluate their injury. "The problem in a lot of sports is that players try to play through their injuries," said Dr. Caleb Nunley, assistant professor of Sports Medicine at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. "We see kids that have concussions and try to go back out and have a lot of problems trying to get back to normal and missing a whole season because their concussion lags on." It's difficult watching from the sidelines and not being a part of a game-winning play, but if injuries are not addressed properly, they could lead to more serious problems down the road.
Twisting ligaments and breaking bones can happen suddenly, but more and more kids and teens are entering doctors' offices complaining of tendinitis, sore shoulders and knees. Although professional athletes can sustain the same fate, younger bodies are at a higher risk of developing these problems. The reasoning behind the rise in overuse injuries in children is because their bodies haven't fully developed yet. You see, children still have growth plates. These areas of tissue near joints are eventually replaced by solid bones once the body has reached its full potential in growth. In most cases growth plate fractures do heal, but some cases a bone could grow improper and result in a deformity.
"Children should not play one sport year round; it puts too much stress on the same muscles and bones," Nunley said. "Instead, have them mix sports up. Playing different sports builds different muscles and your child isn't overusing muscles." Professional athletes don't play year round. Studies have shown that when the human body is resting, it breaks down muscles and bones and builds them back stronger.
Knowing your injury
Athletes, young and old, are primed to be injured. While some injuries are more life-altering, there are some that won't sideline you for too long. Sprains result from either a stretch or tear in a ligament, and typically occur from a blow to the body or a fall. Parts of the body that are the most exposed to a strain are ankles, knees, and wrists. The severity of an injury depends on how much pain or swelling occurs or if movement of a limb or joint is intolerable.
There are a lot of ways to injure a knee: repeating the same motions, sudden stops, direct blows to the knee, landing wrong after a jump or just plain running. According to The Children's Memorial Institute for Sports Medicine, over seventy percent of ACL injuries occur without any contact with another player, typically while landing from a jump or changing direction suddenly.
A break with little or no damage to surrounding tissue is considered an acute fracture. If you do happen to break a bone and it pierces the skin, but only results in slight damage to tissue, that is called a compound fracture. Beware: Fractures that break the skin are prone to be dangerous and, left untreated, can cause infection.
Stress fractures are the result of running and repeated impact to a muscle. "Shin splints are a pain someone feels on the inside of their lower leg," Nunley said. "With shin splints, the pain should be over a wide area on the inside on the leg. If you put a finger on one area, then we physicians worry about a stress fracture and that is much worse."
"To avoid an injury, the first thing a young kid or adult should do is to make sure that there is nothing glaring going on," Nunley said. "Secondly, they should make sure that they are wearing appropriate clothes. If you decide to run outside while it is hot out, make sure you are wearing single layer of clothes and appropriate shoes. Also, keep yourself hydrated. If you are going to workout for less than an hour, drink water. If you workout for more than an hour, drinking sports drink with carbohydrates is best." Nunley also recommends these other ways of avoiding injury:
Increase mileage or speed slowly -- "To train properly, increase your training gradually. If you are running, increase your mileage by ten percent each week. Then, increase your speed by ten percent the following week. You want to pace yourself."
Avoid running on hard surfaces -- "Hard surfaces will put a lot of strain on your lower legs."
Wearing the appropriate footwear -- "Runners should change their shoes every 350-550 miles. The best way to test your footwear is to lay your shoes on a flat surface and if they are tilting to one side, it is time to change."
Stretch -- "Stretch before and after a physical activity."
Now that you know what types of injuries are out there, the next step is understanding treatment. Nunley recommends resting and placing something cold on the injury. If it is a musculoskeletal problem, elevate. Depending on the severity of an injury, some treatments may take place in the comfort of your own home, while others may require surgery and rehabilitation. If an injury causes pain, swelling, numbness, or tenderness, or if there is visible breakage, or if you are unable to place weight on the area, you should seek immediate assessment from a healthcare professional. If you do not experience any of the symptoms above, you may be able to treat yourself at home, by resting, icing, compressing and elevating. If you continue to play or exercise on an injury, you risk causing more damage.
The advantages of being physically active are enormous. Avoiding injuries by following the common sense rules above allow optimum benefit to be achieved.
Share this article: