As schools open this fall, student athletes are en route to returning to the field shortly after. This sports season in New Jersey will not look like previous years. Many changes, including a shortened season, allow schools to safely reopen and establish planning for their fall season. Although the guidelines set in place may reduce the spread of Covid-19, this could lead to problems for student athletes: injury. High school sport injuries can cause problems that may lead to arthritis or even require surgery later in life. There are several things that are pointing towards a high rate of injury this season.
In an attempt to provide a preseason for student athletes, the NJSIAA has encouraged coaches to have virtual contact with their players. This is a result of a prohibition of in-person scrimmages, practices, and games between August 13th and September 13th, 2020. This can pose a challenge for coaches trying to adapt to teaching their athletes complex movements, training principles, and coordination of plays over a virtual platform. Athletes face the challenge of learning these movements without having a physical person to practice on. With the inability to physically learn these complex motions, athletes may be at a higher risk of injury going into the season due to less formal practice than a typical season.
At the time of this writing, The NJSIAA has approved teams to have one scrimmage with a neighboring school. With limited scrimmages, athletes can have a difficult time constructing their coordination with teammates and coaches. When plays are not formally practiced on a regular basis, the risk of mistakes is higher, which also increases risk for injury.
Many high school athletes participate in multiple sports throughout the year. While these student athletes had to sacrifice spring and summer season to limit the spread, they will likely be returning to sports this fall with an itch to compete at their previous level. This could be a problem due to the athletes being less conditioned to competitive sport in previous years and over straining themselves. If the athlete has not been consistently training throughout the quarantining period, they are likely to be de-conditioned to some extent. Their muscles and joints will need to adapt again for a period of time before they are at their previous level.
Many schools are adapting to a shorter season in order to navigate the safe reopening of school sports. This increases the stress on athletes to adapt to their sports quickly in order to reduce chance of injury. Due to a shortened season, athletes may feel more pressured to play through an injury, which may lead to a worsening of their condition, additional injury or long lasting injuries.
Possible Merging of Varsity and Junior Varsity Sports Teams
Some schools are discussing merging their teams to reduce the amount of effort to manage the safe reopening of sports. This poses yet another challenge for student athletes being that they may have to compete with a different team of athletes compared to previous years. Should this happen, students will have to form new bonds with new teammates over a short period of time, posting a social challenge that may even impact performance if team bonds are not formed.
When a sports injury occurs, it is important to seek proper treatment quickly. This ensures the best possible recovery. One of the best things that student athletes and their families can do to prevent injury is to know the signs of injury.
Signs that your youth athlete may be injured include but are not limited to:
- Being unable to put weight on their limbs including legs and arms,
- Favoring or limping on one limb,
- Having difficulty with normal movements including standing, walking and standing,
- Difficulty with sleeping,
- Headaches, lightheadedness or dizziness.
Most sports injuries fall into three categories: acute injuries, overuse injuries, and concussions.
Acute injuries are typically caused by sudden trauma. Examples of this include collisions with objects or other players. Common injuries include contusions (bruises), strains (injury to muscles), sprains (injuries to ligaments) and fractures.
Overuse injuries occur gradually over time typically when the athlete repeats an activity too many times and do not allow their body to properly heal. Overuse injuries can affect many parts of the body including bone, tendons, ligaments, muscles and growth plates. Oftentimes injuries occur to tendons and ligaments and if they are not addressed they can begin to impact the athletes bones leading to a longer and more severe recovery.
Concussions are, by textbook, “mild traumatic brain injuries.” They are often caused in sports by a blow to the head or to the body that causes the athlete to rapidly move their head. Signs of concussions include headaches, irritability with sound and noise and nausea.
With all three types of injuries, the sooner you seek medical attention the better. All three categories mentioned above can lead to much more serious injuries and can have lasting effects later in life.
Injury reduction and prevention programs are important across the board any year, but most importantly this coming season with the many changes put in place. If you or your athlete are experiencing pain or are interested in learning how to reduce your risk for injury, reach out to TORQ Physical Therapy to see how we can help! We offer free discovery visits to answer any questions you may have and we can help set up a personalized treatment plan to address and muscular imbalances or weaknesses that could increase risk for potential injury!