Ask The Experts
Coping with dreaded injuries
By Ker’Shyra Myrick
When it comes to sports and the safety of children, knowing when a young athlete is playing hurt is important for parents and coaches alike.
Regardless of the sport, parents and coaches should always be on the lookout for injuries during practices and games – and then taking the proper steps to help ensure a safe return to action at the appropriate time.
“Injured players are not effective players,” says Dr. Julianne Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia. “A coach wants to have their best athletes on the field, and if they are injured they are not as effective.”
We spoke with her about recognizing injuries and the do’s and don’ts for helping young athletes cope with them. Check out what she had to say:
SPORTINGKID LIVE: How common are youth sports injuries?
SCHMIDT: It’s common for young athletes to deal with an injury in sports. Some studies have estimated that half of athletes sustain an injury while playing sports. Of course, this statistic varies by the sport and the level the athlete is playing. If the athlete is more elite, that number could be higher. One-fifth of emergency room bills are from unintentional injury in youth ages 10-18 and is caused by sport or recreation. So that means one out of five kids have an injury that was caused by sport.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are signs parents and coaches should look for if their young athlete is coping with an injury?
SCHMIDT: Kids are not the best at verbalizing the specifics of pain, or knowing the difference between pain and injury, and when does pain become an injury. Young athletes are not used to the physical aspects of sport, which can be a learning process. The best person to know their child is the parent. Parents need to know if it’s just pain or part of participation in the sport; or if it is becoming an injury. Knowing their young athlete and what his or her threshold is and trying to catch pain early is the best bet. Parents should look for growing disinterest in the sport their child is playing, if they are getting burnt out and don’t like it, and/or if their child is starting to withdraw it may be because they do not enjoy the physical aspects of that sport anymore.
SPORTINGKID LIVE: What are some tips for parents and coaches to help young athletes dealing with injuries?
SCHMIDT: Some tips I recommend are:
- Avoiding early sport specialization. There is a place for it later when the athlete is high school age or older.
- Getting a good pre-participation physical can help prevent injuries, too. Instead of just checking the box and screening for life-threatening injuries, we should use the opportunity to screen for things that are not life threatening, as well. Sometimes this is overlooked and can be a missed opportunity.
- Thinking through medical care and not over use the ER, which is there to save lives. The ER is not necessarily the best resource for sports injuries. Those doctors are there to say whether your arm is broken or not. They are not there to talk through surgical options, rehab, and the best plan to get an athlete back on the field. This is where specialists can step in and really play a role. I know there is different access to specialists and healthcare, and it can be difficult to find a good specialist, but that is what they are there for.
- Try to avoid doctor shopping. Don’t try to find the opinion you want to hear. That is not good for anyone. Coaches should be aware of this, too. Just because they have physician’s clearance from someone does not mean the athlete is ready to play.
- Value health over sport. Sport is important, and it helps ward off health issues later in life, but an athlete should not put their immediate health in jeopardy for love of the sport.
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