More youth injury prevention needed as sports seasons begin

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COLUMBIA - Spring weather is finally making its way to Mid-Missouri, and that means sports seasons are starting up. Unfortunately, it means sports-related injuries in young athletes will be starting up as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.5 million children under the age of 14 are treated for sports injuries every year.

Seth Sherman, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the MU School of Medicine, said getting athletes of all ages a variety of experiences can help bring that number down.

"Even young kids are playing on two or three teams for the same sport now. They need to cross train, have an off-season of some sort and they need to work different muscle groups," Sherman said.

Cross training refers to playing different sports in different seasons to work a variety of muscle groups. While speaking to a crowd of student athletes at the University of Missouri Orthopaedic Institute, Sherman said this can even help enhance overall athletic performance.

"Building up intensity over a six-to-eight week period, athletes can improve performance and even become more coordinated," Sherman said.

Common overuse injuries vary by sport. 

In sports like baseball and softball ("throwing" sports), elbow and shoulder overuse injuries are common. In running sports such as track and soccer, stress reactions and stress fractures are more commonplace.

Dr. Aaron Gray, a sports medicine specialist at the MOI, said rest is key in both preventing and treating injuries.

"Athletes need gradual rest throughout the season to prevent overuse injuries. If they do get injured, they need relative rest, which keeps them from using the injured area," Gray said.

Since injury severity tends to increase with age, it's vital to teach these things to athletes starting a young age. 

So as the weather warms up, athletes need to make sure they're doing some warm ups of their own. That along with cross training will go a long way toward keeping young athletes on the field.