There are many amazing benefits to children and teens participating in sports, but injuries are unfortunately part of the game. March is Brain Injury Month and while not all sports-related injuries are that severe, we want to bring awareness to one of the most common sports-related injuries, concussions, as well as some others our patients have experienced. We’ll discuss how working with sports medicine specialists can help young athletes get back to their activity as quickly as possible.
Baseline Testing for Concussions and Treatment Plans
According to data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey analyzed by the CDC, an estimated 2.5 million high school students reported having at least one concussion related to sports or physical activity in 2017, and an estimated one million students reported having two or more concussions during the same timeframe.
At NJ Spine and Wellness, we offer pre-season baseline testing as a preventive measure for athletes in case they do experience a concussion at some point during their season. The nature and severity of a concussion provides a very wide range of symptoms that are not always visible. No two concussive events are ever the same, so each one is unique and must be treated on a case-by-case basis. Baseline testing is crucial because it gives healthcare providers the opportunity to assess the athlete’s mental and physical status prior to their injury. We can use the initial information to compare pre and post-injury, which allows us to better tailor the athlete’s concussion treatment plan.
Common symptoms after a concussive event include headache, loss of memory/amnesia and confusion, but again, symptoms can vary and may be less apparent. For athletes, it’s important to get checked out by a doctor before returning to their sport if there’s any speculation of a concussion. If baseline testing has been done, testing will be performed again and compared to the initial results. If not, a concussion diagnosis can be confirmed through neurological examination, cognitive testing, imaging tests, and observation depending on the individual situation.
Rest is vital to treatment as it allows the brain to recover from a concussion. The athlete’s healthcare team will put together a customized care plan with additional treatment options. Getting back to a sport too soon can increase the risk of a second concussion and potentially fatal brain injury, so progress will be monitored by the athletic trainers and physical therapists. It’s very important for athletes to work with their doctors on a plan for returning and to make sure they are completely ready.
Causes and Treatment of Meniscal Tears
Other common injuries we see at NJ Spine and Wellness are related to the knee joint – one of which is meniscal tears. Athletes who play sports such as football, tennis and basketball are at a higher risk of developing meniscal tears as they are commonly caused by a twisting motion. No matter what the sport or activity, limited motion or flexibility in the knee has a direct impact on speed and power and can compromise performance.
Treatment depends on the severity of the tear, but your physical therapist will give you stretches and exercises to perform that will reduce stress on the knee. You will also likely be advised to rest, ice compress and elevate the knee as you recover. People who have had meniscal tears are at a greater risk for developing Osteoarthritis, so it’s important to treat tears quickly.
ACL Injury Prevention and Rehabilitative Therapy
The other common knee injury we see is an ACL injury, which is a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — one of the major ligaments in your knee. ACL injuries most commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, jumping and landing — such as soccer, basketball, football and downhill skiing. Symptoms of an ACL injury are similar to those of a meniscal tear.
Proper training and exercise can help reduce the risk of an ACL injury and a sports medicine physician, physical therapist or athletic trainer can work with athletes on these preventive measures. This includes performing exercises to strengthen the leg muscles and core, as well as training to teach proper technique and knee position when jumping, landing and performing pivoting movements.
For athletes that do experience an ACL injury, treatment will consist of several stages of rehabilitative therapy. A physical therapist will teach the athlete exercises to perform and a brace or crutches may be used to help place less weight on the knee. The goal of the rehabilitation process is to reduce pain and swelling, restore the knee’s full range of motion and strengthen muscles. With more serious injuries, surgery could be needed, but we do everything we can to help athletes recover without more extreme measures.
Rehabilitation of Sprains and Strains
At NJ Spine and Wellness, we also treat several different sprains and strains, which are extremely common among athletes. A sprain is a stretch or tear of a ligament, which holds together the bones in your joints. Sprains often affect the ankles, knees or wrists. A strain is twist, pull or tear of a muscle or tendon, and is often caused by overuse, force or stretching. Some common types of strains we help with are tennis elbow, runner’s knee, jumper’s knee and lumbar strain.
When it comes to treatment for these injuries, a rehabilitation plan is always created based on the needs of the individual patient. Our sports medicine team may include the following in a treatment plan:
Work with Our Sports Medicine Specialists
These are just a few of the common injuries we treat at NJ Spine and Wellness, but we offer a number of sports medicine services including post-op therapy, regenerative therapy and Game Ready Technology. Our goal is always to help patients get better without the use of medication or surgery. If you have a sports-related injury or want to take preventative measures as an athlete, make an appointment with one of our NJ Spine and Wellness sports medicine specialists today by calling us at 877-333-6579. Visit the NJ Spine and Wellness location page for details on specific hours and locations for our Old Bridge, Freehold and Matawan centers.