Sports Activities: The Physical Injuries That Haunt
As parents, we encourage our children to be active in sports for their wellbeing, as well as to increase their outdoor activity for the betterment of their health. Especially for growing children and teens, the following benefits of sports and exercise are expected:
- Energy levels are increased
- Improved mental well-being
- Better focus and dexterity
- Training in leadership and team-building skills
In Singapore, participation in competitive youth sports is on the rise in relation to the traditional philosophy of “catch them young”. While this philosophy is observed according to a few sources like the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, the Department of Family Medicine, SingHealth Polyclinics, and the Duke-NUS Medical School upon their research, it is believed the aim of the philosophy is to maximise the physical, social, emotional and psychological benefits associated with an active lifestyle.
Nevertheless, there are also times where children and teenagers tend to get hurt in the process. Though expected, it is good to pay close attention to those injuries and ensure immediate treatment is given to lessen future repercussions.
Common Facts for Sports Injuries
According to Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, here are some sports injuries by the numbers:
- 65% of sports injury cases involve people aged 5 – 24
- 39% of sports injury patients are female and 61% are male
- 28% of sports injury cases resulted from falls
Sports and activities that cause the most injuries:
- 16.3%: general exercise (running, etc.)
- 9.9%: basketball
- 8.3%: football
- 7.2%: cycling
- 6.3%: soccer
- 52%: others
Common Sports Injuries
There are a number of sports injuries that can occur, but the most common sports injuries include:
- 41.4%: strains & sprains
- 20%: fractures
- 19%: cuts & bruises
Figures by Mount Elizabeth Hospitals
- Strains & Sprains: A strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon caused by overuse, force, or sudden stretching. A sprain on the other hand is a torn muscle or ligament which can caused by a collision or fall that will lead to inflammation or spasms.
- Knee injuries: There are different types of knee injuries, which are dependent on the circumstances. Knee injuries can be caused by a traumatic sports injury, a repetitive overuse injury or other traumatic and sudden stop movements to halt a momentum like landing awkwardly from a jump.
The types of sports that may be at a high risk of experiencing knee injuries include football and gymnastics. Wearing footwear that does not fit well for physical activities can also be a risk factor.
- Stress Fractures: These are the tiny cracks found in the bone. They are also caused by overuse or overstrain, such as jumping repeatedly or running long distances. Symptoms of fractures are pain and swelling, while the types of sports that may be of risk to fractures include soccer, track and field, and gymnastics.
- Dislocations: Can occur in both muscle or joints, and bones. This injury occurs when the ends of the bones are forced from their normal positions.
Sports that may have the risk of dislocations include gymnastics, wrestling, as well as basketball and football. The latter two sports have additional risk to suffer dislocation in their hands or fingers.
- Muscle Tears: Can be a partial or complete tear. A partial tear is a damage to the tendon but does not completely sever it. A complete tear refers to the tear causing a hole in the tendon, and the tendon is separated from the bone.
- Rotator Cuff: A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. They act as a stabiliser for the shoulder and allows its extensive movement and overhead motions for their daily life.
An injury to the rotator cuff can be caused by repetitive lifting or overhead activities. Symptoms include such as feeling weak when lifting or rotating the arm, or suffering from pain when lifting or lowering the arm, or with other specific movements. Usually tennis players, baseball pitchers and weightlifters can relate to this injury,
Sports Injuries in Teenagers
Physiotherapists in Singapore have seen an increase in children and teenagers seeking treatment for sports-related injuries in the last 10 years to manage the persistent pains. While some may think the pain will go away after some rest, most will continue experiencing pain which can affect their daily routine and other activities.
The young, including the teenagers who are actively participating in sports might tend to brush away the minor inconvenience caused by any slight pain due to passion and love for the sport. Unfortunately, this is slowly becoming an epidemic of overuse injuries.
While some teenagers tend to heed their doctors’ advice to take a break from sports to ensure complete healing, the soonest that they are permitted to resume training, it is undeniable that they will jump right into it – totally forgetting about their initial injury until it resurfaces and continue to overburden their growing bodies.
We have to remember that old injuries can linger around and further increasing the chances of getting injured again in the same place.
Prevention of Sports Injuries
Sports injuries though sometimes can be inevitable due to strenuous activity and practice, it can still be avoided by taking precautionary measures. Here are a few suggestions:
- Do Warm-Ups & Cool-Downs: Warming up and cooling down are important exercises but are often not taken seriously, and are also often skipped, or not doing it for a sufficient period of time or not properly stretching every part of your body.
Warm up exercises help to prepare the body and mind while gradually increasing your heart rate to bring blood flow to your muscles, tendons, ligaments and flexible joints.
In general, warm-ups help improve your mobility that will decrease the risk of sustaining injuries.
Cool-downs on the other hand are advised to be done twice as long as your duration for warm-ups, lasting approximately 10 minutes which will allow your heart rate to return to normal.
- Learn Proper Techniques: Always check that you have proper technique and form when you start or try out a new form of exercise routine for the first time. A proper technique reduces the risk of injuring yourself, or sustaining an overuse injury.
- Rest: Resting is an important element in determining your stamina and performance during training or participating in sports competitions. This also means getting enough sleep which allows you to be more energetic and alert, while preventing fatigue and reducing the risk of sustaining common sport injuries.
- Stay Hydrated: Don’t worry so much about water retention, but worry more about what happens if you are not properly hydrated when you exercise and risk encountering heat exhaustion or dehydration. Water assists in regulating your body temperature and allows muscle contraction. It also transports nutrients for the energy to engage in sporting activities.
- Wear the Right Gear: There are different gear and clothing for different sports, created to protect and prevent injuries. It is advised to have light-weight and breathable clothing like those made out of polyester/ more commonly known as dry-fit for more mobility and able to adopt wider stances during activities. This also helps your body to cool down better from heavy perspiration.
In conclusion, sports injuries are very common in youth and teens who are actively involved in sports, and they need to pay greater attention to their bodies and well-being. Parents on the other hand need to know that some pains may lead to worser effects to the body’s condition in the long run.
While early detection of the pain source and cause can aid in the recovery process, please seek professional help if the pain persists for more than two weeks even with sufficient rest.