Frank K. Noojin III, MD
Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Center
Nowadays, there are many ways for kids to get involved in sports. Whether it be a community-based team or a school team, the opportunities are endless. Sports can teach kids discipline, sportsmanship and teamwork – but they can also lead to serious injury. Knowing about sports-related injuries and how to prevent them can make playing a sport a more positive experience. Frank Noojin, MD, Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Center, describes some sports-related injuries and how to prevent and treat them.
- If the body becomes overheated, heat illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke, can occur. Symptoms include confusion, dizziness, headache, fever, seizures, dry skin and extreme dehydration. To prevent heat illness, you should practice at cooler times, hydrate, stay in good physical condition prior to the season, and communicate well with parents, coaches and athletic trainers.
- A concussion is essentially a “brain bruise.” It is important to note that a concussion is not always associated with the loss of consciousness. Symptoms include headache, confusion, nausea, emotional behavioral changes, irritability and delayed cognitive responses. A concussion is an urgent situation and requires rest and avoidance of any physical activity until it’s completely resolved. Do not return to a sport prematurely as another concussion may lead to more serious injury, including brain damage. Early diagnoses and treatment are key.
- Shoulder instability, in many cases, is not a season-ending injury. It can manifest in the form of partial dislocations or complete dislocations. Treatment for shoulder instability is designed around rotator cuff strengthening and potential return to play when strength returns to normal and pain resolves. If a dislocation does occur, then the shoulder needs to be put back in place quickly and an X-ray evaluation needs to be performed by a shoulder specialist. During the season, shoulder bracing is very helpful to prevent shoulder instability episodes.
- Common muscle and tendon injuries encountered during football include hamstring strains or tears, rotator cuff strains, groin or hip flexor strains, and lumbar strains. Even a simple forceful contraction of a muscle with sprinting can cause a stretch or tear in the muscle resulting in injury. Prevention is focused around proper pre-sport warm-up, hydration and maintaining flexibility. If you ever get one of these injuries, keep the inflammation down, avoid painful activity, and seek the guidance of a physical therapist and athletic trainer. Do not return to competition prematurely as re-injury is common.
- “Stingers” or “burners” are injuries to the nerves in the arm that result in numbness and tingling in the shoulder, arm and fingers. These are initially painful but typically resolve in a few minutes. If recurrent stingers occur, there is a chance of a condition called congenital cervical stenosis. In cervical stenosis, the spinal canal is very narrow and the risk of nerve injury from contact sports is very high. In rare cases, the cervical stenosis is severe and restriction from contact sports may be advised. Alert your coach or athletic trainer if a stinger is suspected. Usually, an X-ray evaluation is not required for the first stinger if symptoms resolve quickly. If a player has a second stinger or neurological symptoms persist, referral to a spine specialist is warranted and an X-ray is necessary. Do not return to contact until your symptoms are completely gone.
Dr. Noojin encourages athletes to speak up to coaches, parents and athletic trainers about any health concerns they might have. “The risk of injury can be reduced by proper education, conditioning, technique and early diagnoses. Play smart and stay in the game!”
The Palmetto Health-USC Orthopedic Center sports medicine team serves as the official team physicians for the University of South Carolina Athletics, the Columbia Fireflies and dozens of other professional, university/college, high schools, middle schools and recreational teams throughout South Carolina. In addition, we supervise one of the largest athletic trainer outreach programs in South Carolina. Our physicians and a team of athletic trainers serve 34 high schools and seven colleges on the sidelines to prevent, diagnose and treat injuries.
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