What are the most common injuries seen at the high school level?
• Lateral ankle sprains/ Syndesmosis sprains
• General muscle strains
• Muscle contusions
• Chronic injuries
What are the common reasons for the injuries?
• Ankle instability
• Improper use of equipment (not wearing an ankle brace properly, not tying their shoes)
• Nature of the sport (concussions, sprains/strains, contusions)
• Lack of structural development and poor mechanics
• Non-compliance (not coming in for treatments when asked to, not wearing equipment properly (or at all), not following the instruction of clinician, or lack of support from outside entities such as parents or family members)
How can physical therapy help?
Physical therapy is an excellent tool to use for injuries that require long term care (Grade II-III Sprains, ACL reconstructions, Meniscectomy, Labral Repair, Rotator Cuff repair, etc.). Many physical therapists will send a prescription of exercises with the athlete. Physical therapy is an excellent tool to help accelerate the process of returning to normal function
and sport-specific activity. In addition, they have equipment that a typical high school will not have available, like a Vectra, AlterG, BFR, or Traction table.
What can be done to help reduce the number of injuries in young athletes?
Ensuring the proper mechanics are being taught during the sport (heads up tackling, being in an athletic position, proper lifting form, and education about the importance of a healthy diet, proper rest and taking care of your body before and after sports (stretching, warm-up, ice, and cool down.) Attention to detail is key to minimize the number of injuries sustained. It is a team effort.
Support from coaches by having the coaches support the medical personnel and holding the athlete accountable. Athletic trainers can relay information to the coaches and reinforce that they need to follow instructions. (For example, the football coach at ABC High School has been notified that Tommy Touchdown is required to wear a shoulder brace to protect from reaggravating his acromioclavicular joint after suffering a sprain. If the coach sees that Tommy is not wearing his brace, the coach can ask if the athlete had been in to see the medical staff prior to practice and ensuring the athlete is complying with recommendations.)
Finally, for the athletes who do obtain an injury, providing consistent education regarding the importance of performing the recommendations to help them get back to their previous level. Physical therapists and Athletic Trainers should work together to ensure that the athlete is following the protocols when outside the clinic if the situation calls for it.
There are multiple moving parts that allow for success when it comes to an athlete’s health and their winding road to recovery and eventual return to their sport. Athletic Trainers, physical therapists, physicians and other medical personnel involved must work together to strive toward the same goal to reach the most optimal results. It should also be noted that full support from the administration of the school and the parents of these athletes can also make a difference. When all entities work in concert during these times, the road to recovery can be less stressful. Not only does it give validation to the athlete that they are doing the right thing to get back to competition, but it gives support to the medical staff and coaches involved with the athlete on a day to day basis.
Seth Jacob, ATC, LAT