How to avoid summertime sports injuries

Summer is a time for fun, but it’s also primetime for sports injuries. So tonight, a little expert advice to stay safe this season.

Eight-year-old gymnast Jessica Lancaster used to train for three-hours a night, five days a week. But in March, she began to feel pain in her back.

Robert Lancaster, Jessica’s father: “She said it was a sharp pain, and she wasn’t able to complete any of the exercises.”

Dr Cynthia LaBella, Lurie Children’s Sports Physician: “She’s very young, but because of all the repetitive training she still managed to get a stress fracture in her spine.”

Weeks of rest and physical therapy have helped, but Jessica’s return to competitive gymnastics is uncertain.

Robert Lancaster: “If she experiences more pain we’ll probably find another sport.”

Sports are 10-year-old Gavin Snyder’s passion.

Gavin Snyder, stress fracture patient: “I play soccer, lacrosse and baseball, and I play travel soccer and travel lacrosse.”

And he loves to run. This past spring he trained for a 5k.

Gavin Snyder: “I really like running. After the 5k I felt a lot of pain in my shin and my knee, and we thought it was shin splints.”

Dr LaBella: “We did an x-ray and he in fact had a stress fracture of his tibia, which was clearly a result of all the activity he’d been doing.”

Anne Snyder, Gavin’s mother: “I was very surprised. I didn’t think that could happen in a child of his age.”

It’s an overuse injury Lurie Children’s sports medicine physician Cynthia LaBella sees often in young athletes and active kids like Jessica and Gavin.

Dr LaBella: “When someone does a repetitive activity over and over again using the same muscles or the same joints there’s a lot of stress that builds up in those areas. The first rule is not to play through the pain. Take a break, put some ice on it, if it’s still painful after a few days of rest, probably something that should be looked at by a physician.”

After two weeks on crutches Gavin has been cleared to walk again, but he’ll need another month to fully heal.

Dr LaBella: “Definitely too soon to start any running or jumping.”

Anne Snyder: “I think it made us realize he was doing too many running sports in one season, so he’s figured out which ones he wants to focus on.”

But no matter the sport, Dr LaBella says too much activity too soon can spoil the summer.

Dr LaBella: “When summer starts kids like to sign up for all types of camps and specialized sports. I like to caution parents not to get too overzealous and sign them up for something every day of the week or several weeks in a row. You might build up to the point where you’re at a sports camp three or four hours every day, but you shouldn’t go from sitting and taking exams all week to all day every day.”

Everyday summer activities like biking and rollerblading need a safety check, too.

Dr LaBella: “There’s a lot of growth that happened over the course of the year, so the first step is to make sure the equipment still fits properly, whether it is shin guards, helmets, wrist guards, knee pads. Exposing your child to a variety of different athletic experiences is the best stimulus for their neuromuscular system.”

You can learn more about Dr LaBella’s injury prevention tips at:

https://www.luriechildrens.org/en-us/kohls-cares/Pages/sports-safety.aspx

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