While summer has wrapped up here in Michigan and kids are back to school which means that many of our young ones are in full swing with their fall sports. If you are a parent than you know that you’ve signed permission slips, waivers and indemnity clauses like it was your job. You’ll have problems at home if little Susie/Johnny won’t be allowed to play but the real problems happen AFTER the ink dries; Sports Injuries. In a report compiled by researchers at UC Denver, the number of national estimated high school sports related injuries is 1,427,315 for the 2013-2014 year.
Yes, you heard that correctly, almost 1.5 MILLION injuries to our kids in school sanctioned sports. Oh and that number is merely the REPORTED rate, the numbers could be much higher because as you know, athletes will often tough it out in silence rather than admit to a problem.
Right about now you are probably hoping that your child plays a safe sport and that these numbers are probably just for barbaric games like football, lacrosse and that weird European game called “rugby”. While boy’s high school football is top of the charts like a Bon Jovi album in the 80’s as the most injury-inducing sport on the books, you would be shocked to learn the women’s soccer is #2. In fact, softball and basketball (girls and boys) have wildly higher numbers than I would have guessed and while the rate of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injuries) is lower in non-contact sports, a common ankle sprain can have an insidious effect of the biomechanics of the athlete for years to come that eventually results in knee replacements, back pain, reduced activity and faulty neurological feedback to the cerebellum. And lastly, according to Fong:
“Ankle ligamentous sprain injury is the most common single type of acute sport trauma” accounting for 14% of all sports injuries.
(A systematic review on ankle injury and ankle sprain in sports. Fong DT, Hong Y, Chan LK, Yung PS, Chan KM Sports Med. 2007; 37(1):73-94.)( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2724472/)
( https://www.hss.edu/newsroom_sprained-ankle-ignored.asp )
( http://www.backfixer1.com/is-your-old-ankle-injury-causing-knee-hip-and-back-problems-years-later/ )
Let’s dive into that for a minute actually because I am tired of people brushing ankle sprains off like it’s a rite of passage or “no big deal”. What do most people do when they roll their ankle? Spoiler alert, it isn’t get evaluated by a Structural expert to fix the compensation patterns that arise from newly altered striking patterns. They usually take it easy for a couple weeks, buy an ACE bandage from Rite-Aid and ride it out until it stops hurting. Or even worse, they just stop being active because they have a self diagnosed “bad ankle”. Don’t be like most people. Most people have limps. Most people allow an injury to reduce their activity level permanently. Most people have pain. Most people…..
The majority of our patients who experience an ankle “sprain”, “roll” or “tweak” do so in an inversion or forced supination pattern where the ankle rolls in (think pinky toe on the ground/big toe in the air) which stretches the ligaments on the outside of the foot near the bump on your foot right above the shoe line (it’s called the lateral malleolus for you A&P nerds out there). A grade 1 sprain will usually hurts for anywhere between 2-6 weeks and then you are “good to go” again. Only you’re not. Like the picture to the right, you have clearly compensated for the injury in your ankle by doing everything from rotating the knee internally to un-leveling the pelvis and shoulders. We have created a compensation pattern that CAN AND WILL manifest as a myriad of other problems that appear unrelated to the untrained eye.
As you can see from the schematic above, there is no such thing as an isolated injury. So if a seemingly innocuous injury can affect our entire structure, what is our move? Predict our next injury with a magic eight ball? Ouija board? Locking the doors and staying inside? Never playing sports? Obviously I am being facetious but clearly withdrawing our kids/ourselves from activity isn’t the solution so what can you do to lower your injury susceptibility?
Beat an injury BEFORE it happens.
Before you accuse me of drinking on the job remember what old Ben Franklin had to say about proactive measures, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure." To be fair, Franklin also said that “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”!
Kids are like trees that are learning to grow straight. Catch them early and all you have to do is add those wire supports, adjust the straps semi-regularly to ensure they progress properly and wait 30 years for a good looking oak to replace the fragile frame of the sapling. Now picture if you didn’t have those support wires in place. Any sort of pressure on the tree could cause a shift in the base of the tree right? Now extrapolate out a couple decades and envision the state of the tree now:
This is a little different eh? Now think how long it’s going to take to fix this older deformed “tree”!
If you are reading this and realizing that you are an old tree and are experiencing back pain, trouble sleeping or headaches, realize that it may be caused due to a biomechanical dysfunction stemming from an injury a long time ago. The first step is admitting there is a problem right? So, now you have to get it fixed but how do you know what the primary cause is and which is the secondary conditions? How do you know if the shoulder is to blame for the neck ache or the neck ache is due to the malposition of the shoulder? Find an expert that you can trust.
Every parent I’ve met wants their kids to have it better than they did growing up and while our intentions are honorable, are we setting them up for the exact same injuries that we as adult suffer from? Recognizing the injuries in our kids today can significantly change their trajectory tomorrow. Don’t wait until your tree is crooked to start shopping for solutions.