Keep young athletes safe during spring sports

Special to the Herald-LeaderMarch 24, 2013 

Walter Terhune

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Now that spring is here, many young athletes are already preparing for a new sports season. Here are some tips to help keep these athletes safe on the field.

What should parents consider before allowing children to participate in sports?

First, every athlete should have a physical to determine if they are healthy enough for athletics. Parents should consider the type of sport their child wants to play: non-contact, contact or collision sports. They should also consider the types of injuries associated with those sports.

What injuries are most common in spring sports?

While the non-contact spring sports — baseball, softball, tennis, and track and field — have lower injury rates than the fall/winter contact sports, there is always the chance of acute injury in any sport. The most common injuries this time of year are chronic, caused by overtraining or repetitive movements.

In baseball, shoulder overuse injuries caused by repetitive throwing motion are common, especially in pitchers. Softball has some similar overuse throwing injuries, but fewer than baseball because the underhand pitching motion is more natural and puts less stress on the shoulder and elbow.

During track season, the repetitive nature of running causes lower leg pain and medial tibial stress syndrome, commonly known as shin splints. If shin splints are not treated, they can develop into a stress fracture.

How can athletes prevent injuries?

All athletes should participate in a full body conditioning/strengthening program devised by their coach or strength coach to safely build upon their current fitness level. We aim for short, efficient practices (21/2 hours or less) that vary athletic drills to avoid routines that might lead to overuse injuries. Also, coaches should teach and emphasize proper techniques for each activity they ask the athlete to do.

For information on how to prevent injuries in young athletes, visit StopSportsInjuries.org.

Walker Terhune is a certified athletic trainer for UK Sports Medicine.

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