The staff at Grand Rapids Metro Health is used to dealing with sports-related injuries. While the hospital’s well-educated staff is fully prepared to aid whatever patients come through their doors, the easiest way to treat an injury is to prevent it from ever happening.
With your health in mind, the training staff at Metro Health has put together a list of sports-related injury issues, along with a way that you can preemptively address them. They would prefer that you heed this advice, but injuries will occur in sports no matter how careful you are, and the team at Metro Health is always happy to help you.
1. Watch Your Step
The majority of sports involve a lot of movement from the legs and contact with the ground. This can be troublesome enough, but when you throw in interaction with other players’ bodies, you’ve created a perfect recipe for ankle injuries. Dr. Ed Kornoelje deals with all types of athletes dealing with ankle problems caused by sports activities, and he says players can take steps to avoid a trip to the hospital for an injured ankle.
“There are prehab exercises you can do before an activity to straighten an ankle,” Ed explained. “Ankle exercises and braces are things that can prevent sprains and re-sprains. Athletes with previous injuries should get a lace-up ankle brace, or get a trainer to tape up the ankle. That way, if you do land awkwardly on somebody’s foot or step on an uneven sidewalk, there’s something there that supports it. It can be hard to know if you have an ankle sprain or an ankle fracture, so if it persists for a few days, it’s a good idea to get it looked at.”
2. Don't Throw Out Your Shoulder
Sports like baseball, swimming, hockey, weightlifting, and certain track and field events involve a great deal of shoulder activity, and the complexity of the shoulder creates the potential for several types of injuries to occur. Unfortunately, you need to be extra careful, because Ed says certain shoulder injuries can occur even if you’re doing everything right.
“Typically for overhead athletes, there are a couple key things that can be irritated or injured,” Ed said. “One is the rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles that helps to move the arm forward in the throwing and pulling motion. The other is a cartilage piece called the labrum. For many of the athletes, the problem is overuse. When you’re swimming over and over again or throwing over and over again, there’s a rubbing that occurs on those muscles. And if there’s an imbalance in the muscles, that rubbing can create an irritated area that turns into a tear. If you’re feeling pain, then you need to back off of the activity you’re doing. If not, seeing a physician is the best thing to do.”
3. Listen To Your Body
Ed describes the two kinds of pain that athletes feel during activities - pain from fatigues and pain from injury – and he encourages coaches to listen to their athletes and not brush it off as the faking of injuries to get out of workouts. However, Metro Health athletic trainer Ethan Cunningham describes another problem that occurs in these situations, albeit on very rare occasions. And, it’s another issue that both players and coaches need to be wary of.
“I’ve had kids that are just too tough in their brain to turn the exercise off, and they end up with an acute injury,” Ethan described. “We want our athletes to be mentally tough, but sometimes kids are too mentally tough, and I’ve had a few kids that have been too mentally tough. We’re talking about maybe one out of one hundred kids that play sports, but it’s something you still need to be mindful of. It’s great that they’re tough, but it’s bad that they push themselves to the point of worsening an injury.”
4. Don't Be A Hero
With more knowledge seeping into high school weight rooms from the upper levels, Ed says that overall weight room technique has gotten better. On the flipside, Ethan has also noticed coaches that are quick to introduce their kids to the major Olympic lifts like squats, deadlifts and cleans without reinforcing the technique required to pull off the lifts safely. When it comes to lifts like these, increasing weight while sacrificing technique is almost certain to result in an athlete with an injured back.
“A lot of these kids are developing poor squat technique, poor clean and jerk technique and poor deadlift technique,” Ethan said. “They are either loading incorrectly or they’re taught incorrectly. They’re not learning the balance you should get in exercise. Lifting 700 pounds on a deadlift is great for a power lifter, but for a 17-year-old kid who just wants to get strong, it’s a horrible idea.”
5. Watch Out For Concussions
In recent years, Ed is seeing far more patients about concussions, and he considers this to be a good thing. That’s because the general awareness of concussions in sports is far greater than it used to be, and people are on the lookout for concussion symptoms whenever an athlete takes a strong blow to the head. Even so, there is still more work to be done on concussion education, and Ed is more than happy to provide you with tips on what to be on the lookout for.
“First of all, if you’ve been knocked out, by definition, you have a concussion,” Ed explained. “Sometimes people who lose consciousness can recover quickly, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a concussion. If you have a blow to the head but have no symptoms, nothing needs to be done, but if you experience a headache, nausea, lethargy, disorientation, vomiting, fatigue or memory loss, you should go see someone and get checked out. Remember, 90 percent of concussions occur without the loss of consciousness.”
6. Be Careful With CrossFit
CrossFit has become very popular, both as a strength-and-conditioning tool for athletes, and as a sport in its own right. Still, there has been plenty of controversy over the techniques used in CrossFit and their proper use for athletes using CrossFit simply for conditioning purposes. Fortunately, Ethan is very experienced with CrossFit and has some sound advice for anyone considering CrossFit, or anyone that has already started a CrossFit workout regimen.
“Two different CrossFit-affiliated gyms can be night and day on technique,” Ethan said. “Bad CrossFit is like bad powerlifting. If you’re not trained in how to do a proper deadlift, you’re going to destroy yourself. Whenever I do CrossFit, I always use a weight that I can control. What I tend to do is push kids toward great Olympic-style lifting coaches, and if those coaches happen to be at a CrossFit gym, then that’s great. However, if one of my kids was intent on doing CrossFit in its entirety, then we would have a long talk about what moves they should be doing and what they should be avoiding.”
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