Baseball is America’s greatest past time and I love watching youth, high school, and collegiate teams play. There’s just something special about it- the sights, smells, and sounds really make it magical. Some of my best memories with my family and friends revolve around the game of baseball or time spent at the park. With spring upon us and summer rapidly approaching you have probably found yourself at a baseball park or youth sporting event. As youth sports have grown and participation is at an all-time high, so is the rate of athletic injuries. It is vital as a player, parent, or coach that we handle injuries timely and appropriately, as well as implement injury prevention as part of the young athlete’s routine. As many youth athletes start a new sports season they may begin to experience aches, pain, or injuries. Here are some helpful tips and information that can help you, your child, or your players minimize the chance of soreness or injuries during the season:
1. Physical Conditioning
Physical conditioning is probably one of the most important things an athlete should do prior to the start of the season in order to decrease the soreness that occurs during the first few days of practices. The type of conditioning activity should be similar in intensity to the sport in which he or she participates. A good example is running sprints in preparation for upcoming baseball season.
2. Warm-Up and Stretching
A warm up helps raise the core body temperature and prepares all the body’s muscles for physical activity. Warm-up activities can consist of running in place or a light jog. Also, stretching the muscles related to the activity is very important. For example, if a child is pitching, he should concentrate on stretching his arm and back muscles. If a child is catching, the focus should be on the legs and back. Each of the stretches should be done slowly and held in the stretched position for a minimum of 15 seconds. I would encourage doing static stretching before arriving at the ball park followed by a light warm up routine that implements dynamic stretching for optimal injury prevention.
3. Proper Technique
The importance of proper technique cannot be overemphasized and it starts with the coach. It is the coach’s responsibility to make sure that safe techniques are taught, as well as performed correctly by the athletes. For example, proper body mechanics of pitching are pivotal to ensure optimal performance and health of the pitchers arm during the season.
4. Proper Equipment
If an athlete uses equipment that does not properly fit, the chance of suffering an injury increases. This equipment also needs to be in good condition. Athletic equipment, such as helmets, pads or shin guards, and even mouth pieces, should be fitted by a knowledgeable person, such as the coach, sales person, or medical professional. Parents should be actively involved in this process also. Even footwear must fit properly. Athletic shoes should fit comfortably at the time they are bought. An athlete should not wear brand new footwear to practice. The shoes should be worn for several days at some point prior to the start of the season in order to prevent the likelihood of blisters
When practicing on hot and humid days, the intensity of the activity should be decreased. A better idea would be to schedule practices during cooler times of the day, such as early morning or evening. Athletes should wear loose fitting, bright colored clothing made of cotton or other types of fabric that breathe and allow the sweat to evaporate from the athlete’s skin and permit heat to dissipate from the athlete. Ensure that adequate fluids are consumed before, during, and after the activity.
Rest is by far the most powerful therapy in youth sports injuries. Nothing helps an injury heal faster than rest. Children who play on more than one team are especially at risk for overuse injuries. Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive stress put on the same part of the body over and over again.
We all have heard it or said it at one time, “You can play through the pain.” However, children should not be encouraged to “play through pain.” Pain is a warning sign of injury and ignoring it can lead to greater injury. Swelling with pain and limitation of motion are two signs that are especially significant in children — don’t ignore them. They may mean the child has a more serious injury than initially suspected.
8. Severity of Injuries
Injuries that look like sprains in adults can be fractures in children. Children are more susceptible to fractures because their bones are still growing. Children’s growth spurts can make for increased risk of injury. A particularly sensitive area in a child’s body during a growth spurt is the growth plate. Growth plates are weak spots in a child’s body and can be the source of injury if the child is pushed beyond his or her limit athletically. Also, please be aware of signs/symptoms of a concussed athlete and be sure that proper medical attention is provided to correctly determine when or if it is safe for the child to return to play.
9. Ice It!
Ice is a universal first-aid treatment for minor sports injuries. Regular ice packs, not chemical packs, should be available at all games and practices. Ice controls the pain and swelling caused by common injuries such as sprains, strains and contusions.
10. Seek proper treatment
Go see your local physical therapist to help treat injuries properly to ensure optimal performance when returning and reduce risk of injury in the future. We at The Summit Rehab pride ourselves on treating athletes at our outpatient clinic locations in the southeastern region.When treating an athlete’s injury we have three main goals:
3) Injury Prevention
Come see one of our physical or occupational therapists for more information on performance analysis, treatment of injuries, or injury prevention programs. We serve to ensure that youth athletes can perform and excel at the highest level. We are experts in rehab, excelling in service!