Kids should play often to avoid injury: From school sports to outdoor recreation, there are ways to stay healthy and practice good safety habits |

Kids should play often to avoid injury: From school sports to outdoor recreation, there are ways to stay healthy and practice good safety habits

Lauren Glendenning/Brought to you by Memorial Regional Health

With summer in full swing and back-to-school dates not far off, student athletes and recreational enthusiasts face a time in the season when injuries often occur.

The most common injury facing children and teenagers around Craig, and nationwide, is concussion, said Lindsey Short, a master's level athletic trainer at Memorial Regional Health.

"Concussion is one of the most common injuries and also one of the most under reported," she said. "Yet, it is one of the most serious injuries healthcare providers will come across."

Ankle and knee injuries are also very common among children and teenagers, said Marshall Kraker, a certified athletic trainer at Memorial Regional Health. Kids often complain about pain without any identifiable injury, but sometimes, the pain is associated with a true sprain or tear of a ligament.

"For the ankle, I commonly see what’s called a lateral ankle sprain, where the anterior talo-fibular ligament and calcaneofibular ligament are affected," he said. "For the knee, the general pain usually arises from tight muscles that react on the tendons that insert around the knee joint, such as the hamstring tendons and the quad or patellar tendons. True ligament injuries occur to the knee, such as ACL injuries, but, for the number of athletes we have, this is relatively uncommon."

Concussions, other injuries

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Concussions can happen in any sport and for any reason. Football tends to be the culprit for many youth concussions, as it is a contact, collision sport, Short said. Concussions can occur in ice hockey, soccer, volleyball and even after falls associated with relatively mundane activities, such as riding a bike or running.

"They can occur from being hit directly to the head, but really, they occur with any trauma to the brain that causes neurological disturbances," Short said. "One of the big concerns about this injury is the danger of repeated concussion, which can cause long-term problems or can even be fatal."

While it's impossible to completely avoid concussion, research shows that increased neck strength can help.

"I have found that what matters most is awareness. Be aware of the dangers of concussion, be aware of the long terms effects, be aware of protocols that should be in place to protect your kids," Short said. "Work with your health care providers to make sure they are doing their best to assure your kids are protected in the event a concussion happens. Assuring your child heals properly is paramount when comparing prevention ."

Other injuries in joints and muscles can occur from inappropriate warm-ups or cool downs. That's why Kraker said it's so important to put 100-percent effort not only into the sports, but also before and after play.

In most ankle sprains, usually a twist mechanism while in contact with the ground results in injury, as well as planting on an off-level surface, such as stepping on somebody else’s foot, Kraker said.

Contact or collision cause most of the knee injuries Kraker has seen, however twisting and driving force with a planted lower extremity will cause ligament injuries.

Go out and play

Parks and recreation is also a great way to implement further activity into a weekly routine for those who don’t want to be involved in sanctioned sports, according to Marshall Kraker, a certified athletic trainer with Memorial Regional Health.

“For younger kids, I encourage outside play. With new technology in phones, tablets and video games, we see less and less kids going outside for activities,” he said. “Outside play with friends and family can foster development of simple, coordinated movements that can benefit a student athlete later on in life. The more a kid goes outside and plays, climbs, runs around, bikes, etc., the less likely they are to put themselves into a position that can result in injury at a later point in life. Kids that don’t play oftentimes are unaware of proper coordinated movements and don’t subconsciously react in a situation that could result in injury.”

Avoiding injuries

The best things kids can do to prevent injury is to listen to their coaches, properly hydrate, eat well and listen to their bodies. Following are some other tips.

If feeling extremely fatigued and unable to execute athletic techniques, such as tackling in football or slide tackling in soccer, take a break that includes drinking water or a sports drink.

Proper warm-ups and cool downs are effective ways to reduce injury. Tight muscles that are overexerted are at very high risk of straining and removing an athlete from play.

Strength training is one of the most effective forms of injury prevention, but such training must include proper form, appropriate weight, stretching, a variety of lifts, hydration and nutrition.

Participate in more than one activity to stay strong in power, coordination, strength, speed and endurance.

Proper mindset and a great rehabilitation team can make a difference following an injury. This can include an athletic trainer, a physical therapist and an orthopaedic doctor. Having a great team can get you back onto the field in better shape than when you started.

Source: Lindsey Short and Marshall Kraker, athletic trainers at Memorial Regional Health.