Dr. James Baronas, Primary Care Physician and Sports Injury Specialist at GBMC, recently spoke at a Jemma Financial Services event for families of student athletes to discuss sports injury prevention among adolescents. Dr. Baronas explained how families should keep a healthy balance of staying active by participating in athletics while also being mindful of not over exercising to avoid injuries.
Reasons for Children to Be Active
Dr. Baronas explains that one of the most important things for parents to do for their children is to let your children see you be active. Research has shown that active kids perform better in academics by almost 40% and those children are 15% more likely to attend college, compared to children who are not active. Outside of academics, active children have also shown to be less likely to smoke, consume drugs, and experience teen pregnancy.
When Should My Child Specialize in A Sport?
Parents can sign their children up for recreational sports leagues as young as 3 years of age, depending on where you live. As your children get older, you may discover that your child excels in one particular sport but how soon is too soon to specialize in one sport? Dr. Baronas shares that, “Age is not a good predictor for how parents should decide when their kids should start specializing in sports. The decision should be based on the individual child.” He emphasizes that “Collisions [typically] happen among younger child athletes whose fine motor skills are not fully developed” so it’s important to not have your child start specializing before he or she is ready.
What Are the Most Common Sports Injuries Among Adolescent Athletes?
“Over 50% of injuries in children are overuse injuries. An overuse injury is a repetitive trauma to any part of the body without giving the body enough time to heal,” Dr. Baronas explains. “And for female athletes, the most common injury tends to be stress fractures, which is an injury that will likely occur again in the future.”
Tips to Avoid Injuries
Focus on good mechanics
Invest in proper footwear
Avoid training on certain surfaces
How Much Sports Participation Is Too Much?
According to Dr. Baronas, “Your child should not be doing more than 16 hours per week of any particular sport, or else they could experience a higher chance of injury. Athletes who play one sport all year-round are 45% more likely to get injured in comparison to child athletes who take time off throughout the year [9 months or less of playing].” Dr. Baronas shared with parents of student athletes that whatever your child’s main sport is, it’s important that they take a break throughout the year. During that break, they could focus on cross training or something else that keeps them active but avoids overusing the same muscles and repetitive movements.
Tip for Working with A Personal Trainer or Performance Coach During Off-Season
Define your goals before starting (i.e. increasing speed, agility). Don’t just do it to do it.
How Do You Know If You Should Take Your Child to The Doctor?
As a rule of thumb, “If you think it’s a head injury, bring them to the doctor right away. I tell parents, if your kid can’t do regular activities, like walk or go to the gym, after a week, they need to see a doctor.” Dr. Baronas clarifies, “If your child can’t bear weight, and that persists for a day or two, bring them in.”