It’s that time of year; the kids are back in school, the leaves are just beginning to change colors, and football season has begun. Understanding how precious our kids are to all of us, we thought we’d use this month’s newsletter to share some insight on the more common injuries that football players can sustain, what parents (and coaches) should watch for, and ways to potentially avoid injuries.
Knee injuries, involving the ligaments of the knee are all susceptible to injury in football, often caused by hits from other players. Some players also tear the meniscus, when they plant a foot to rotate their body and the knee twists.
Pivoting movements and changes in direction, make players susceptible to soft tissue damage in the ankle. Shoulder injuries often result from direct hits to the shoulder, causing the joint to dislocate or separate. And, as we now better understand, concussions and brain injury, can result from hard hits leading to even more serious consequences, especially when they are not carefully handled by the coach and parents.
The risk inherent to this highly physical game are often countered, however, by the values that the sport can instill in a young person. A good work ethic, perseverance, humility, respect and cooperation are just some of the values that a young athlete can carry into adulthood – often balancing the risk with the rewards available.
What Parents Can Watch For
Understanding and supporting the positive opportunities that come with sports, parents can counter some of this risk by taking an active role in monitoring how their child is doing. This includes keeping an eye on how frequently practices and games are held, and how hot it is outside when players are training and playing.
As with any sport, football players are prone to overuse injuries. Encouraging our kids (or grandkids) to be vocal about any chronic or recurrent pain, is really important, as it could be the sign of overuse and the need for rest. Being present for the games and asking questions increases your awareness of how your young athlete is doing.
While strength and conditioning training before the season begins is most helpful, young players can always benefit from sports training and injury prevention programs during the season. A good program for football players should emphasize conditioning, including agility drills and sprints; proper weight training, with someone that can teach the correct form; and building bone density and increasing reaction time. Being able to react more quickly, helps the brain work faster during a game and may help an athlete avoid impact with another player, reducing the chance of injury.
As physical therapists we work with youth athletes regularly – not just to rehab after an injury, but before an injury occurs. We have had much success in working with athletes to prevent injury and improve performance. If you are the parent or grandparent of a young football player or know of a friend who is, we encourage you to share this article or this insight.