An ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear is a devastating injury that can end an athlete’s season and sometimes take up to a year to fully recover. Along with the pain and long rehab process, it also carries the consequences of a high rate of re-tear and increased risk for osteoarthritis. But what if you could decrease your risk of getting this injury, just by doing certain exercises for 20 minutes two times per week?
Dr. Dai Sugimoto, director of clinical research at The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention at Boston Children’s Hospital, has focused his research on training regimens that help prevent ACL injuries. Through extensive study, Sugimoto has found specific exercises that have been shown to decrease the rate of ACL injuries for female athletes.
A recent study, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, says childhood exposure to the brightly colored packets jumped 17 percent from 2013 to 2014.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Poison Data System for children under age 6 and found 62,254 reported pediatric exposures to dishwasher or laundry detergents, of which over 21,00 (35.4 percent) were laundry detergent packets and approximately 15,000 (24.2 percent) were dishwasher detergent packets.
According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a laundry pods soft and colorful exterior can easily be mistaken by a child as candy, toys, or a teething product and once mixed with saliva, the packets dissolve quickly and release the highly concentrated toxic liquid. If a child ingests a highly concentrated single-load liquid laundry packets, she will experience excessive vomiting, wheezing, gasping, sleepiness and difficulties breathing.
Many parents recognize there are tremendous benefits to youth sports participation, such as building relationships with peers and coaches and developing a healthy lifestyle. But for some kids, focusing on one sport at a young age can be too much of a good thing.
Sports specialization — intense training for a single sport with exclusion of other sports — has become increasingly popular at younger and younger ages.
Researchers suggest this specialization period occurs between the ages of 6 and 12. At these ages, some common overuse pediatric injuries, such as patellofemoral pain syndrome and Osgood-Schlatter disease, are four times greater in sport-specialized athletes. Diversified sport participation promotes the development of motor skills and limits repetitive stress on kids’ growing bones.
This is why pediatric sports medicine professionals recommend athletes delay specialization until late adolescence (16 to 18 years old) to minimize risk for injury and psychological stress.
Here are some pointers to keep young athletes healthy and in the game.
Take part in recreational play.
It is important for young athletes to enjoy neighborhood games such as tag, capture the flag, kick-the-can, wiffle ball and other games. These keep kids active and promote healthy living. Performing movements that differ from a specific sport are more likely to reduce the young athlete’s risk of injury.
Even switching from ice hockey, which can focus on repetitive drills, to street hockey, which is recreational play, may lessen injury risk.
Take advantage of the off-season.
Usually there are a few weeks between the conclusion of one season and the beginning of the next. This is a great time to hang up the equipment. The athlete can focus on recovering, taking a few days off to rest and then working on some easy strength, flexibility and other modes of cardiovascular activity, including recreational play.
Participate in one sport a season.
Often young athletes participate in more than one sport a season. Before the ages of 16-18, youth should participate in a variety of different sports throughout the year and limit organized participation to one sport a season. Kicking a soccer ball differs from shooting a basketball and offers the body a variation in movement. This benefits kids because not only does the risk of injury decrease, but it also gives the athlete the ability to develop different motor skills.
Begin strength training.
Parents and coaches believe young athletes are strong from the sports they play. Sports develop strength to a certain degree, but a well-rounded strength program corrects imbalances and promotes proper movement to reduce injuries in sport. Ultimately, the stronger the athlete, the more likely she is to reduce her risk for injury.
A common misconception is that strength training means lifting heavy weights, but strength training can be as simple as a plank or a bodyweight squat. Any uniform exercise performed correctly with repetition that allows children’s muscles to respond and produce a movement will create strength.
There is no minimum age requirement to beginning strength training, but athletes should be able to follow directions and demonstrate balance.
Talk to a sport psychologist if your child seems stressed about sports participation.
A sports psychologist can be a great resource for an athlete to voice concerns about the mental components of a sport, such as preparing for tryouts, overcoming a tough loss and setting personal goals. Psychological stress can lead to an injury or burn-out. It also may result in some athletes quitting their sport at a young age.
Football remains one of the most popular sports for young athletes. But concerns about football injuries are at an all-time high. Many of these concerns focus on head and neck injuries, which account for approximately 5 to 13 percent of overall football injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), on Oct. 25, released a policy statement on tackling in youth football.
Dr. William Meehan, from the Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine Division, co-wrote the statement. He offers five recommendations to help keep youth players safe and healthy and minimize their risk for head and neck injuries.
Play by the rules.
Make sure coaches and officials enforce football rules. Research shows that a significant number of concussions and catastrophic injuries occur because of improper and illegal contact, says Meehan. There should be zero tolerance for head-first hits. Meehan, along with the AAP, suggests stronger sanctions, up to expulsion from the game, for offenders.
Work with your youth football program to reduce the number of hits to the head.
The health effects of sub-concussive blows remain unclear, but limiting impacts to the head may reduce the risk of long-term health problems such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Get familiar with the pros and cons of delaying the age at which tackling is introduced.
Though delaying the introduction of tackling would likely curb the risk of injuries at younger ages, the risks might be higher when tackling is introduced at older ages. That’s because older players are stronger, bigger, and faster, and if they have not previously learned how to tackle and absorb a tackle, they may be at increased risk of injury.
No matter what age tackling is introduced, players should be instructed in proper tackling techniques. But delaying the tackling age prompts a catch-22. “It may be very difficult to teach these skills in a noncontact situation,” notes Meehan.
Build neck strength.
Strength and conditioning exercises that build the neck muscles are likely to reduce a player’s risk of concussion. That’s because a stronger neck may limit the acceleration of the head after impact, which is one factor contributing to concussion, explains Meehan.
Advocate for athletic trainers.
The presence of athletic trainers during football games and practice may help reduce the incidence of injuries. Athletic trainers provide medical management to injured athletes, but also ensure proper hydration, warm-up and injury prevention measures.
Download the Boston Children’s Sports Medicine Football Injury Prevention Guide.