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Promote, Prevent Practice

By Caroline Stansbury

As a soccer player in college at Shenandoah University, I have seen many athletes affected by sports-related injuries that either end their careers or cause long-term effects. During my freshman year of high school, I played a soccer game in the rain at night. The game had just started, and a girl on the opposing team and I went up to win the ball out of the air. We ended up colliding once jumping, and we immediately fell to the ground. In shock, I looked up and realized I couldn’t rotate my arm. The girl on the other team landed and was holding her head. Just in this one game, two players experienced a sports-related injury, including myself. After the game, I went to the hospital and the nurse assumed it was a sprain, so they gave me a sling to wear. However, the next week, I went to the orthopedic to get an x-ray. The results came back as a fracture in my olecranon.

This is just one story. I have had numerous occasions where I could’ve prevented an injury if I had the proper knowledge of how to. 

The public health problem in my story is the impact of injury when playing sports or sports-related injuries. Another health concern in my story is the nurse making assumptions about my injury before fully knowing the result. I put my trust in the healthcare professionals and my pain level was downplayed. Sports-related injuries and people not understanding the long-term effects of them is a health concern. This is a prevalent problem with people growing up playing sports up until college and after that. According to John Hopkins Medicine, around 30 million children and teens participate in organized sports, and more than 3.5 million experience injuries each year (6). Additionally, one-third of all injuries occurring in childhood ages are sports-related injuries (6).

Injuries can range in severity, and when using proper precautions, most sports injuries can be prevented. Some common signs or symptoms an athlete may experience in their career are body aches, swelling, bruising, cracking, stiffness, the inability to bear weight, and decreased range of motion (3). This can affect anyone who participates in any type of physical activity, exercise, and sports. Specifically, this happens to people out of shape, people who play contact sports, people who don’t wear the correct protective equipment, exercising without stretching, or participating in activities that involve cutting, jumping, running, or any quick movement (2).

When diagnosing sports injuries, your doctor is likely to ask about the injury and how it occurred, ask about the occupational activities you participate in along with the intensity of the activities, examine the area injured, and order imaging tests such as an x-ray or MRI if necessary to assess bone structure (4). Future actions after a diagnosis of a serious injury can include immobilization which can be done right away to enable blood flow and surgery for specific cases. On the other hand, some treatment options for minor injuries include the R-I-C-E method which is rest, ice, compression, and elevation (4).  But who treats sports injuries?

Usually, sports-related injuries can be treated by emergency physicians, primary health providers, physical therapists, pain management specialists, orthopedic surgeons, physiatrists, or sports medicine specialists (4). Reducing the risk of injury can be done in several different ways, such as taking time off to rest, wearing the right gear, strengthening muscles, increasing flexibility, using proper technique, not playing through pain, and drinking plenty of fluids (5).

Many organizations are trying to tackle this issue, but one specifically has created some awareness and is called Coach Safety. The organization has the mission statement of specifically limiting youth sports injuries and advocating the education behind them for coaches, parents, teachers, or anyone in the hands of athletes (1).

The founder of the organization is Jack Crowe, a former college football coach. The concept or organization was developed over a 4-year window after discussions with the National Council of Youth Sports Safety, the NCAA, and many other non-profit organizations (1). Together, they developed an evidence-based Coach Safely training course that athletes can take to prevent sports-related injuries (1). In 2018, the Coach Safely Act was passed by Alabama Legislature, and it became the first law in the U.S requiring youth coaches to complete a training course on injury recognition and prevention to protect athletes (1).

The organization suggests the problem can not be completely solved; however, people can educate themselves on the health problem which will hopefully prevent future injuries. To prevent further injuries, they recommend that youth or athletes take the safety course to understand the risks of playing a vigorous sport.  

As a proposal to this public health concern and to create awareness among athletes, today you can visit the organization’s website and learn more about their mission as well as take their course on preventing potential injuries in sports. Additionally, if you’re an influential figure to athletes, today you can talk to them about the importance of protecting themselves at such a young age. For example, if you know anyone who participates in vigorous activities, ask them what they do to stay healthy as an athlete. 

References:

  1. The course: Student athlete injuries: Coachsafely Foundation. Coach Safely. (2022, March 29). Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://coachsafely.org/education-safety/
  2. Preventing sports injuries. Preventing Sports Injuries – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P00935
  3. Sports injuries: Types, treatment and prevention. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved October 2, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22093-sports-injuries 
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022, March 3). Niams health information on sports injuries. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Retrieved October 16, 2022, from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sports-injuries/diagnosis-treatment-and-steps-to-take 
  5. Sports injury prevention tips. HealthyChildren.org. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2022, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/sports-injuries/Pages/Sports-Injuries-Treatment.aspx 
  6. Sports injury statistics. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2019, November 19). Retrieved October 16, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/sports-injuries/sports-injury-statistics

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