This school year might look a little different, but school sports are back in session! First time players and seasoned athletes are equally susceptible to injuries of the shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. Each sport affects the body differently and poses higher risks of injuries than other sports.
In this blog, we will talk about:
The types of injuries that are common in teens
Ways to avoid injury
Signs of injury or future injury that parents can watch for
Example stretches/exercises that teens should perform regularly to avoid future injury
What types of injuries are common for active teens?
While sports lead in the cause of injury, many of these common injuries in teens can occur without the addition of a sport.
- Patellar tendonitis, or Jumpers Knee, is a condition commonly seen in teenage boys. This form of tendonitis is caused by inflammation in the patellar tendon, causing pain in the knee area. This kind of injury can be seen in basketball players because of the frequent jumping that occurs in the sport. However, this condition is not limited to athletes. The rapid growth of teenage boys can lead to weaker muscles; paired with exercising of any kind can result in patellar tendonitis.
- Ankle sprains are an everyday occurrence among teenagers. A sprain simply means a ligament is stretched too far or torn. Ankle sprains happen when the ankle twists or when the foot rolls onto its side. This is a very common sports injury but can also occur from taking a bad step, slipping on the stairs or accommodating for ill-fitting or unsafe shoes.
- Broken Arms are pretty self-explanatory. A fall tends to be the most common way for teens to break their arm; from the teen falling with an outstretched arm, to an arm being crushed by another teen’s fall. For any broken arm, range of motion exercises are necessary to maintain movement in the arm joints.
- Hip Injuries are commonly seen in soccer players, hockey players and runners due to the overuse of the leg and hip muscles. Among others, muscle pulls, cartilage tears, inflammation of the pelvic bones and sports hernias are all common hip injuries among student athletes. The overuse of muscles paired with twisting movements and accidental slips and falls can lead to any of the above conditions.
- ACL, or Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is a ligament inside the knee joint that connects the femur to the tibia. The ACL helps to keep the knee stable and strong. ACL tears occur when the ligament is stretched too far, causing it to rip either partially, or entirely. Quick changes in direction, twisting motions and landing wrong after a jump are all ways that the injury can occur. ACL injuries are prevalent among soccer, football, baseball/softball and tennis athletes.
- Shoulder Dislocations are another injury that are nonexclusive to athletes. Everyday roughhousing can lead to shoulders being displaced. A shoulder dislocation occurs when the bones in the shoulder joint move out of place. Falls, or awkward pulls are generally the culprit in these types of injuries; often seen in sports like football, rugby, hockey, downhill skiing, and wrestling.
Does gender make a difference?
Generally no. Most of the above injuries are not exclusive to boys or girls. Patellar tendonitis does tend to be more common among boys because of their faster growth rate. Girls are also more prone to back and shoulder injuries because of their flexibility. Sports like gymnastics and cheerleading are more popular among girls so they are more susceptible to than boys to those types of injuries.
What are some ways they can avoid these injuries?
Strengthening the body all around is the best way to avoid many of the sports related injuries common in teens. The stronger the joints are, the less likely the muscles and tendons are to tear. Strengthening the upper body will help to avoid dislocations while lower body stretches will reduce the risk of knee and hip injuries. Practicing proper form is another way to avoid injury. Even the strongest body cannot always stand up to poor mechanics. Knowing how to start and stop your movements and understanding the proper way to land will decrease the possibility of broken bones, tears and sprains.
What should parents watch for?
Moaning and groaning about small aches and pains are the norm for most adolescents. However, if your child complains about a particular body pain consistently, it is best to have it looked at sooner than later to avoid further injury. An assessment by a primary care physician or an orthopedic specialist will ease everyone and ensure no further damage is done.
Parents should also encourage better posture for their teens, especially in girls. Slouching in the back, neck and shoulders puts strain on the muscles, nerves and joints, leading to weakened muscles and higher risk of injury.
Another tip for parents is to check your teen’s shoes. Looking for uneven wear on the bottoms of the shoes could show signs of injury or future injury. Depending on the severity of the wear or if your teen has flat feet, an orthotic device may be recommended.
What are some examples of exercises a teen can perform at home to avoid/heal from injury?
- Avoid overhead exercises, such as a military press. This can put a lot of strain on the arms and shoulders, leading to an injury.
- Perform lifting exercises with your thumbs up and palms facing up for better hand/wrist posture.
- Starting low and slow and gradually moving up is always the best way to go.
- Using a towel to stretch behind the back, gently pulling the towel down is a good exercise for the shoulders.
- In general, avoid grabbing behind you (like reaching behind your back for your backpack in the car) to avoid a shoulder problem.
- Flexibly stretching are great exercises to practice for the hips.
- Avoid W sitters (sitting with your knees bent and with your feet to either side of our hips or sitting on top of your feet toes pointed in). The poor posture can lead to problems in the hip, knees and lower back later in life.
- To help stabilize the lower body, try standing on one leg, (not rested on anything) while performing everyday tasks like brushing your teeth or drying dishes. Give each leg roughly 30 seconds of balancing time before switching to the other leg.
- Core strength exercises are important to improving back strength and health.
- Pelvic tilt exercises will strengthen the lower back.
- Turn rotations are also a great way to increase muscle strength in your back and abs. Perform turn rotations with a straight back and pulling the bellybutton in towards the spine.
- Overall, core strength and back strength go hand in hand so keeping a tight core is essential for reducing the risk of back injury.
- Four-way leg exercises with a resistance band are GREAT for leg strength.
- Performing simple activities around the house, but more purposefully and slow, keeps the legs strong and stable. This includes (but not limited to) sitting in a chair and going up/down the stairs.
- Use a table or counter to stabilize and complete calf raises while standing around the house.
- Avoid allowing your knees to pass your toes in movements like squats and lunges.
- For legs, it’s all about controlled movements!