The Record Herald, "The downside of sports - injuries"

Published March 15, 2014

The downside of sports - injuries

By: Lee Goodwin

Clarification: The Waynesboro Record Herald ran a clarification to note that Robinwood Orthopaedic Specialty Center is a member of The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics. 

They happen when you least expect them.

It doesn’t matter how hard an athlete trains for a sport, injuries are as much a part of the game as wins and losses.

And when they occur, the results can be devastating to a student-athlete’s physical and psychological well-being.

So, knowledge is definitely power when it comes to acknowledging that injuries can happen to anyone at anytime on the field or court .

According to Robinwood Orthopaedic Specialty Center, a child athlete is hurt playing sports every 25 seconds. Safe Kids Worldwide research estimates that 1.35 million children a year visit the ER with sports injuries. And, most of those injuries are preventable, according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine.

“Seventy percent of non contact knee injuries are preventable,” said Derek Kling, who has worked in the physical therapy field for seven years and works locally at Waynesboro Physical Therapy.

Sports injuries

It’s the moment parents pray doesn’t happen. Their son or daughter is injured during a competitive event. Though rare, when injuries do strike athletes, the effects on mind and body present challenges in terms of rehabilitation and self-esteem.

Knowing injuries can happen to anyone should provide ample incentive to develop a gameplan to prevent them — no matter what age.

“Injuries during athletics, such as broken bones, sprains or strains, account for approximately 70 percent of all medical issues related to athletic participation,” said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gary Sherman.

“In general, the risk of injury is greater during a competitive athletic event rather than a practice or a scrimmage. Half of all injuries are related to the legs, such as ankle sprains, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries and nonspecific knee pain.”

Sherman went on to say that 20 percent of injuries occur to the arms and upper extremities and that the most common are shoulder injuries.

“Head and neck injuries account for another 10 percent, most commonly concussion. Spinal cord injuries make up the smallest percentage,” Sherman said. “Other injuries include heat illness and skin infections. Lastly, certain medical conditions can put an athlete at greater risk for injury, such as a heart condition.”

The knee

Because the knee is a hinge joint, it is especially vulnerable to injury.

“Repetitive motions, sudden stops or twists, or direct blows to the knee are common causes of knee injuries,” said Dr. Roger Robertson of Summit Orthopedic Group. “The most common knee injuries to adolescent girls are anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. The best preventative exercise is plyometrics, which includes jumping and strength training.”

Dr. Sherman noted that there’s been a “significant increase in the number of ACL injuries in female athletes, particularly among soccer players. Studies show that a female soccer player’s risk of an ACL injury is 2-8 times that of a man’s.

He suggests both male and female athletes should stay within their physical limits and slowly increase the training load. He added, “Adding neuromuscular and proprioceptive (awareness of the position of the joint/body) exercises to the training regimen can reduce the number of ACL injuries by 2-4 times.”

Dr. Robertson offers these tips:

— Wear the correct, proper fitting protective equipment.

— Wear good, supportive shoes that were made for your sport.

— Proper strength training and stretching can help your muscles get stronger and become more flexible.

— If you are participating in a sport that requires a lot of jumping, make sure you understand the proper way to take off and land to reduce the pressure on your muscles, ligaments and tendons.

It’s a very susceptible ligament to injury,” Kling said. “Athletes today are bigger, stronger and faster. Recovery time from injury depends on the person.”

Kling said some knee injuries, like hits from the side, back or front, are not preventable. He said a good way to prevent the avoidable injuries is to be aware of form in jumping, “knees, hips and feet in their proper places,” Kling said. “Have a good balance between hamstrings and quadriceps, and stretching is important.”


Head injuries are becoming more and more publicized.

While some knee injuries may take up to a year to fully recover, concussions may last a lifetime.

“The risks of concussion are inherent in any contact or collision sport,” said Dr. Robertson. “Most concussions are of a mild variety, which include dizziness and headache, and should be taken very serioiusly. People who have had one concussion are susceptible to another.”

Dr. Sherman said concussions are most common in contact sports, but can occur in “many different athletic settings.”

Learning about concussions is important in helping prevent them, Dr. Sherman said.

“There is much regarding concussions that is as yet unknown or unclear, and research is ongoing,” he said. “However, due to the prevalence of concussions in sports, it is important to be aware of the many factors involved; to teach tackling and contact procedures to help avoid or minimize the risk of head injury and to be able to recognize a potential concussion to prevent further injury.”

Dr. Robertson said an important way to minimize concussions is wearing proper fitting protective equipment during contact sports like football, hockey or when batting during softball or baseball games. He added that soccer players should focus on strengthening their neck muscles.

Said Dr. Sherman, “Athletes and coaches also should be educated about what can lead to head injury, such as spearing, head-to-head contact and leading with the head.”

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