Safety First: How Young Athletes Can Reduce the Risk of Injury

Youth sports are more than child’s play. Getting kids involved from an early age can yield numerous benefits, including physical development, self-discipline, coordination, and even socialization with peers. But if your child is playing youth sports, you need to remember that they face a greater risk for injury than adult athletes with stronger bodies.

The Differences Between Child and Adult Athletes

Children might have a seemingly unlimited supply of energy, but don’t let their excitement and fearlessness fool you. Children are still growing and they can’t be put through the same reps as adults.

As Palmetto Bone & Joint’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist, Dr. Jacquelyn Van Dam explains, “A child is not merely a smaller version of an adult. Their muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons are still in early growth stages. And when you factor in differences in stamina, strength, and coordination, they’re much more susceptible to injury.”

Children also face a greater risk of injuring growth plates, which are areas of developing cartilage found at the ends of long bones. Growth plates are weaker than the surrounding ligaments and tendons. Something as simple as a twisted ankle can lead to something more serious – like a growth plate fracture that disrupts normal bone growth.

Common Injuries Among Young Athletes

Youth sports injuries are usually placed into one of two buckets:

  • Acute injuries. These are injuries caused by sudden trauma – like a collision or twist. They include things like strains, sprains, and broken bones.
  • Overuse injuries. These injuries occur over time. They result from repeated use without adequate rest between playing. Examples include shin splints and Achilles tendinitis. 

Strategies for Preventing Injuries in Young Athletes

As a parent or coach, it’s your job to make sure young athletes don’t push too hard. (They’re often poor judges of managing pain and have very limited patience for rest and recovery.) Here are some helpful tips and strategies:

  • Always have your child go through a pre-participation sports physical to screen for potential problems.
  • Ensure the child knows and abides by the rules of the sport.
  • Equip your child with the proper protective gear for the sporting being played. (For example, a baseball player needs to be equipped with the proper baseball helmet, while a soccer player should wear shin guards.)
  • Encourage your young athlete to stay properly hydrated before, during, and after an athletic competition.
  • Encourage proper stretching prior to athletic performance.
  • Children should never play a sport when they’re tired or in pain.
  • Children should not rely on the sport itself to get them into shape. They should instead be encouraged to train for the sport they’ll be playing.
  • A young athlete should not be exposed to weight-lifting training until their primary care doctor ensures them that it’s safe to begin. (And at this point, proper weight training from a licensed trainer is necessary.)
  • Limit the number of teams and sports your child plays per season. A child who plays on multiple teams faces a greater risk for overuse injuries.
  • Children shouldn’t play a single sport year-round. Regular breaks, as well as participation in other sports, are necessary for both injury prevention and skill development.
  • Steroids should never be used by young athletes. While they are shown to increase muscle mass, they can have serious and sometimes life-threatening complications.
  • Young athletes are discouraged from taking sports supplements unless otherwise directed to do so by a doctor. There simply isn’t enough research on the long-term health effects in children. It’s also important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate these products.

This might sound like a long list of dos and don’ts. However, at the end of the day, it comes down to using common sense. As a parent or coach, trust your gut and do what’s best for the child’s long-term health.

Contact Palmetto Bone & Joint Today

At Palmetto Bone & Joint, one of our primary goals is to provide pediatric patients with the care they need to regain optimum health and freedom of movement after sports-related injuries. If your child has experienced a broken bone, compromised joint, or similar injury to the musculoskeletal system, we offer the latest in technology, diagnostic services, both surgical and nonsurgical treatments, and rehabilitation.

Contact us today to learn about scheduling an appointment!


How the Right Athletic Shoes Can Improve Performance and Prevent Injury

Whether you’re a runner, avid walker, amateur soccer player, or you like to play doubles tennis with neighborhood friends, choosing the proper athletic shoes can improve your performance and prevent injury. The question is, how do you select the proper footwear for your needs?

Why the Right Athletic Shoes Matter

According to a study from the American Podiatric Medical Association, an individual who weighs 150 pounds exerts 63.5 tons of force on each foot over the course of a one-mile walk. And when you consider that the only thing providing a cushion between your feet and the pavement, track, or trail below is the sole of a shoe, it becomes abundantly clear why selecting the right athletic footwear matters.

According to orthopedic surgeon Mark Wilson, MD, a Palmetto Bone & Joint sports medicine specialist, “A properly selected, well-fitting athletic shoe provides support for the foot’s arch, offers ample room for your toes to move without excessive friction, and helps to absorb some of the shock that occurs from repetitively striking the ground with your feet.”

Tips for Selecting the Right Athletic Shoes

Unfortunately, many people choose athletic shoes based on trendy styles and brands, when they should really be looking for shoes that are (a) comfortable and (b) provide the appropriate support.

As you search for the right pair of athletic shoes, you may find the following tips helpful:

  • When searching for the best athletic shoes, always shop stores that cater to your sport. (If you’re a soccer player, go to a sporting goods store that specializes in soccer cleats. If you’re a runner, go to a running store.)
  • To ensure you get the proper fit, work with knowledgeable staff members to measure your foot. (Never assume that you already have the proper size.)
  • Try on shoes at the end of the day, or after a workout, to account for the swelling that naturally takes place during the day.
  • When trying on shoes, walk around the store for an extended amount of time. Try different types of surfaces (carpet, tile, etc.) and movements.
  • The heel counter, which is the part of the shoe that holds your heel in place, needs to grip your heel. If there’s too much slippage here, you have the wrong size.
  • You should have ample room to move your toes around when the shoes are tied. (This includes a ½ inch space between your big toe and the tip of the shoe.)

The Different Types of Athletic Shoes

There are a wide variety of athletic shoe types. The one you select will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of physical activity, the terrain, and other individual details related to your body type. Having said that, here are some of the main types of athletic footwear:

  • Running shoes. These shoes are grouped into three main categories. “Neutral” shoes are for runners with high-arched, rigid feet. “Stability” shoes are intended for runners who have an arch that’s prone to collapsing during running. And then there are “motion control” shoes. This type of shoe is ideal for runners with severe arch collapse, making it the primary choice for people with flat feet.
  • Walking shoes. Walking might seem like a pretty innocuous activity, but it involves a substantial heel-toe gait pattern. Thus you want a shoe that’s stable and able to naturally roll with the foot. If you suffer from pain in the arch of the foot, a rocker sole works well.
  • Trail shoes. For hikers and trail runners, a trail shoe offers extra traction and more stability across the sole of the foot. So while you may not be able to run as fast, this type of shoe is more supportive and forgiving.
  • Court shoes. For those playing volleyball, tennis, or basketball, court shoes are designed to be light, yet “grippy.” They also offer extra ankles support to increase stability and lessen the chances of injury.
  • Cross-trainers. Finally, cross-trainers are designed for individuals who participate in a variety of sports and want a good all-around option that’s safe and reliable. These shoes aren’t designed for excessive running, but are suitable for light use.

Palmetto Bone & Joint is Here for You

At Palmetto Bone & Joint, we’ve proudly served the communities of the Midlands and Upstate South Carolina for more than 25 years. Our goal is to help both adult and pediatric patients rediscover their health and freedom of movement after sports-related injuries.

Please contact us today to schedule an appointment!