APPLETON, Wis. – Most children have made their way back to school, and for some that will also mean back to the field for spring sports and activities. Sports medicine physicians say there could be some concern about the potential of increased risk of injury after the extended time of physical inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With many sports seasons being shortened, delayed or all together canceled over the last year, we should consider what this means for our student athletes,” said David Hirschi, M.D. a Sports Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care.
“When they return to their normal sports schedules, let’s be sure everyone – coaches, parents and care providers – are taking necessary precautions to help keep athletes safe and healthy.”
Dr. Hirschi explained that children are very resilient, and there are some ways to help them prepare to get back to sports, including:
Visit your Doctor: A good opportunity for families to connect with their care team is during an appointment for a sports physical, which is required for young athletes. Dr. Hirschi said sports physicals are important because they help ensure students are as healthy as possible for their age with the goal of training and competing safely. Providers can typically give a good assessment on ‘return to play’ and how much time and energy you should spend to prepare for your sport. Oftentimes doctors will check range of motion in ligaments and cardiac health to make sure you’re ready to hit the playing field.
“Sports physicals bring young people to the doctor for a check-up when they are feeling good,” he explained. “We get to touch base during an important time in a young person’s growth and development when there are a lot changes from year to year.”
Get physical: Three to four weeks before practice starts, Dr. Hirschi encourages starting to practice at home and slowly working your way up to prepare for team practice. Athletes should recognize that it may take time to get back to previous ability.
“Don’t compare yourself to others or where you were in previous years,” he said. “Many are just getting back into sports again. It’s important that we get moving again without injuring ourselves. Let’s be honest with ourselves as to where we truly are with our physical fitness level and choose activities that match that level. Go slowly and listen to your body, gradually build up to the level of activity you were. Your body will tell you when it’s being overstressed; listen to your body, go slowly and take a break when you need it.”
Stretch it out: Keep your muscles and ligaments loose by stretching muscles before and after workouts. Practice agility drills, balance, and strengthen your core to help prevent injury.
Dr. Hirschi also added that just because your child plays multiple sports throughout the year, it does not mean they’re fully prepared for their upcoming spring sport.
“Even when you transition from one sport to another, you may be at risk because the muscles you use from one sport to another can be different,” he said. “That’s why conditioning is so important. It can help prevent certain injuries.”
When an Injury Happens
If children suffer from an injury there are signs to watch for, and some injuries may require a trip to the doctor’s office. Dr. Hirschi adds that children will sometimes play through pain, but that could worsen the injury.
To help avoid injury, coaches, parents and athletes should follow these recommendations:
- Warm up and cool-down properly before an activity
- Use proper training and technique
- Increase training gradually
- Drink enough water
- Rest and take breaks when needed
Parents should pay close attention for possible signs such as a concussion which could lead to dizziness, blurred vision, unbalanced and/or not being able to concentrate. Dr. Hirschi said a concussion should be evaluated by a doctor. Other signs could include your child not using an arm or leg as they usually would. He said that anything that lasts longer than a week should result in a trip to your provider.
Dr. Hirschi said it’s also important for parents to get involved and it can be as simple as going for a jog with the family or throwing a ball around in the backyard.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of going out and doing it with them,” he said. “Our children look to us as role models. If we make exercise and healthy living a priority, they will likely do the same. These good habits start early, and parents are the best teachers.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care
Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care. For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.