Common Back Problems in Younger Athletes
Many teens and younger adults are eager to get involved in sports, whether through their school, private group or informally. At this age, these activities offer a great outlet for energy, encouraging exercise, good sportsmanship and the value of teamwork. However, the downside is a significant risk of injury.
Back injuries are often associated with contact sports, but they’re commonly reported for those enrolled in dance, gymnastics and other seemingly “safer” activities. If these athletes are moving, they have increased chances of back injury.
Lower back problems are now seen as the third most common injury in athletes under 18, with half of those requiring up to six months to fully recover. Depending on the sport, different activities can lead to specific types of injuries, so this breakdown can help you understand what to be aware of.
Sprains and Strains
These are common across almost all youth sports. Brought on by over-training, excessive twisting or falls, damage to tendons and muscles need time to heal. Give injured athletes plenty of time before allowing them to resume play — the damage already done can be greatly amplified otherwise.
High-impact sports such as football are particularly dangerous for younger backs. Explosive hits from other players and sudden impacts to the ground can quickly lead to fractures that require lengthy healing periods. Unfortunately, the best way to avoid this type of injury is to choose a sport where younger athletes will be less inclined to suffer these kinds of hits.
Excessive arching of the lower back is possible in a wide variety of sports. Often, poor technique or limited training can lead to bad habits. Understanding proper form will help mitigate this issue, so athletes should pay close attention during training. Also, building up muscles in the lower back will lead to a stronger core, helping to reduce the chances that they’ll end up suffering from this.
Almost all sports, even low-impact ones, require a lot of physical repetition during training and playing. When done too much or too often, these moves can cause younger athletes to be sidelined quickly. If soreness or pain is felt during playing or training, it’s vital that players are stopped immediately and their bodies are given an opportunity to heal.
Generally speaking, if student sports lead to some kind of back injury, the most important step is a break from the game. Less severe injuries can go away in a few days, especially with plenty of rest, over-the-counter pain management and ice or heat packs. Also, stress the importance of proper stretching prior to getting back in the game.
Many younger athletes are still in that “invincible” stage where they don’t fully appreciate risks and long-term consequences of injury. Make sure they understand the importance of proper technique, adequate training and smart choices while being active. If back pain doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks, or if it’s acute and causing significant pain, it’s best to have an expert evaluate them. Here at the Spine Institute of North America, our back pain experts are well-versed in the risks and damage youth sports can bring.
If you have a younger athlete complaining of back pain, don’t give it a chance to progress to something more severe — book a visit with us today. We’ve got the smartest, fastest options to help them recover and get moving again.