According to the CDC, over 30 million American children and adolescents play sports today. While this high level of athletic activity is certainly a positive factor in combating the obesity epidemic and other health concerns, it also means that millions of kids are at greater risk of suffering a sports-related injury. In fact, Johns Hopkins University found that around 3.5 millionAmerican youths aged 14 or younger suffer sports injuries annually, and over 775,000 of those injuries require visits to emergency rooms.
While some sports injuries may be unavoidable, others occur simply because athletes push themselves beyond their body’s limits. However much you may want to power through the warning signs of fatigue, aches, and pains, these symptoms exist for a reason: they’re signs that your body has been pushed to the brink. If you’ve noticed pain during your latest game or training session, take a step back and assess the damage before getting back into the action. Your body will thank you.
ALL PAIN, NO GAIN
While it may seem obvious that pain is a sign that something’s amiss, many athletes are under tremendous pressure to simply work through it. In contact sports like football and hockey, it’s almost expected that players will nurse an injury at some point during their careers. Giving into this type of peer pressure, however, can result in significant damage.
Remember that the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments that comprise your body are elements of a complex system of interconnected tissues. Damaging any one of these areas can put an entire joint out of commission. The knee, for example, is comprised of four bones and four ligaments. Even slight damage to one of these parts can prevent you from bending, flexing, or rotating your knee at all, and increases your risk of developing arthritis later in life.
The symptoms of many sports injuries can be temporarily improved with the use of anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and painkillers. While these short-term remedies can certainly be included in a holistic treatment plan, they aren’t a viable long-term solution to a sports injury. After all, they address only the symptoms rather than the underlying issue.
Relying on these treatments might also deter you from seeking treatment for an injury that could plague you long after your sports career has ended. In a recent report on injuries in contact sports, the New York Times spoke with the daughter of a former college football player currently in his eighties. She told the Times that her father still suffers from significant pain and discomfort in his knees more than six decades after hanging up his cleats. Many retired athletes have similar stories about the toll that past injuries have taken on their health.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
However much you may want to play through an injury, it’s clear that doing so can have devastating consequences in both the short- and long-term. That’s why we recommend that you step away from the game at the first sign of pain, and find a qualified orthopedic specialist who can diagnose your condition and develop a treatment plan that’s tailored to your needs.