Release Date: 8/10/2011
Don't let your young athlete 'play through the pain'
Dr. Jack Galbraith, a Family Medicine specialist, practices at St. Anthony's Family Health Partners.
As the “dog days” of August slip away into cooler September weather, the swim gear and ball gloves are stowed in the garage, replaced with basketballs, football pads and hockey sticks.
If your young athlete is gearing up for the fall sports season, he or she is one of an estimated 35 million young people in the United States, between the ages of 6 and 21, who participate in competitive sports. Unfortunately, too many of them are specializing in one sport at a younger and younger age, hoping to achieve high-level athletic success by training year-round. This puts them at risk for overuse injuries, which can cause permanent damage to young bodies. Doctors increasingly are treating children for sports injuries they previously saw only in adults.
For some reason, sports adages seem to regard pain as a good thing – “Play through the pain.” “No pain, no gain” – it’s not. When we see professional athletes, who earn millions of dollars, “go on with the show” – despite pulled muscles, torn ligaments and broken bones – we cheer their bravado. But do we really want our young sons and daughters risking permanent injuries to their growing bodies for the sake of a game? If today’s professional athletes had ignored their bodies’ warning signals when they were children and adolescents, they might not have made it to the pros.
Here are some tips to make sure your child doesn’t incur permanent injuries by playing through too much pain:
- Encourage your child to participate in sports at his or her own level of ability and interest.
- Be sure your child receives proper conditioning and training before participating in any sport.
- Do not encourage your child to “play through the pain.”
- Be sure your young athlete eats properly and receives an adequate amount of rest.
- Do not increase your child’s training time by more than 10 percent a week.
- For younger children, it is healthier to enroll them in a variety of sports, using different body parts and developing different skills.
- If your young athlete does sustain an injury, be sure he or she heals completely before returning to the playing field.
Before registering your children to participate in any sport or physical activity, be sure they have a complete physical exam by their pediatrician or family doctor. If your children show signs of sprains, strains or sore muscles from overuse, have your doctor check them out to be sure it is safe for them to continue playing.
Most of all, teach your children that they need to listen to their bodies. Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong and we need to fix it. Don’t let your young athlete play through a painful injury that could lead to permanent damage.
For information, please call our Health Access Line at 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 800-554-9550 or visit find a physician online.
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