Youth Athletes and Injuries

Posted by admin in Dr. Dean's Wellness Blog

Last week I had the privilege of being a Chiropractor for the BC Summer Games, which was held in Surrey.  Congratulations to all the amazing young athletes and their families, for your dedication, talent, and work ethic which were the stepping stones to your participation in the Summer Games!  Having had the opportunity to work at many of the sporting events throughout the games, I was impressed, once again, by the exceptional level of youth athletes that our province produces.

As Chiropractors, we often treat aspiring young athletes.  Like any athlete, the youth athlete is sometimes faced with injuries as a result of their participation in competitive sports.  Unlike professional athletes, however, I have noticed that youth athletes often are not given the same level of care or concern when faced with an injury.  An example of this occurred recently when I treated a young athlete after a sporting event because of an ankle complaint.  As I was taking his history, I found out that he had twisted his ankle so badly a few weeks ago, that it had significant swelling and he had not been able to put ANY weight on it.  As I examined his ankle I could see some bony deposition from where he possibly fractured his ankle and it had started to heal.  I asked him whether he had been examined for his ankle injury or had received an X-ray?  He said he hadn’t and that both his parent and his coach had told him it wasn’t a serious injury.  This is not an isolated incident, it happens commonly in youth sport.  Now just consider for a moment if this had been a professional athlete.  He would have been assessed by a trainer and/or team doctor on the field and then taken for immediate X-ray to rule out a fracture and determine the extent of the injury.  Why the difference?

I don’t believe for a moment it’s the result of neglect on the part of the parent or the coach.  There has always been the attitude of “playing through” injuries in youth sport, as well as the belief that they are young and will bounce back quickly with a little ice.  These attitudes are common and reflect the lack of knowledge and training that is available to every professional and elite athlete each time they step on a field, or court, or rink, or in a pool.  Having youth athletes assessed after most injuries should be, in my professional opinion, mandatory in amateur sport.  There is a growing awareness of the dangers of concussion in sport and the implications for chronic problems afterwards.  Changes are being made and assessments are improving, but we have a long way to go with regard to other injuries.

An injury that is sustained as a youth can create numerous problems as you age.  Just speak to a collegiate football player from the 70’s, and they’ll regale you with their aches and pains and physical limitations, not to mention surgeries!  The same can be said for skiers, rugby players, gymnasts, equestrians, the list is endless.

Having been a youth athlete in many demanding sports, and having treated youth athletes in my practice, I would encourage both parents and coaches to not only have an injured athlete attended to immediately after an injury, but also consider the benefit of proper preventative care.

These young athletes are still in their growth stage of development.  This makes them more vulnerable to injury, not more resilient.  Preventative chiropractic care for young athletes not only helps improve performance, and avoid injury, but it will allow them to remain functional and mobile as they age.  The youth athlete may not have an appreciation of how important this will be later in life, but we, as the adults wanting the best for them, certainly do!

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