Thirty to forty million children and teens participate in organized sports every year, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports. What’s surprising, however, is that millions of these student athletes are injured every year.
All of the sports here at Carmel High have some element of danger. However, the most dangerous sport appears to be football. Concussions are the single most serious sports injury, and they occur most frequently on the football field.
It could be argued that football causes more injuries than any other sport simply because it is the most popular among student athletes. Nonetheless, since 2000, 145 high school football players have died from football-related injuries.
Cheerleading, too, is not without its risks, with head and neck injuries being the most common, followed by facial injuries from falling and collisions or concussions. An even more chilling statistic is that cheerleading causes two-thirds of all serious sports injuries in females, according to Frederick Mueller, PhD, lead researcher at the University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
Even tennis has its hazards. Some of the most common injuries found on the tennis court are rotator cuff tendinitis, tennis elbow, wrist strains, back pain, calf and Achilles tendon injuries, ankle sprains and tennis toe. Jim Sommerville, the girls’ tennis coach, makes a small list of a couple of injuries that he sees per year.
“There are three to four injuries per season on the varsity tennis team,” Sommerville says. “Typical injuries occur to the rotator cuff, wrist, calf and hamstring muscles.”
Almost all Carmel athletes run the risk of shoulder or wrist injury. Whitney Grummon, the girls’ soccer coach, says that the team experiences about one or two concussions per season. Sprains and strains are the most common lower extremity injuries. The severity of these injuries varies. Cartilage tears and anterior cruciate ligament sprains in the knee are some of the more common injuries that may require surgery. Other injuries include fractures and contusions from direct blows to the body.
Boys’ water polo does not have many injuries, according to Aaron Gailey, varsity water polo coach. The most common injuries that he sees require only minor amounts of icing, rest or rehabilitation.
“In my 11 years of coaching we have only had three kids suffer a concussion,” Gailey says. “The goalie position is at the greatest risk for concussions, for obvious reasons. Other than that, it is a very physical and aggressive sport so bloody noses or contusions are pretty common.”
Softball players usually face sore throwing arms at the beginning of the season, while lacrosse players often experience head and face injuries, among other less-serious ailments.
“We have had minor injuries such as twisted ankles and knees,” boys’ lacrosse coach Max Murphey says. “In any given season, there will likely be one player with a major injury, and the rest minor.”
It all sounds pretty scary, but there are many ways to prevent these injuries.
Kristen Spencer, who works for the Natividad Medical Center Trauma Services, says one of the most important ways to prevent injury is to get a physical exam with your doctor before beginning a sport. Athletes should also warm up and stretch before games and practices: 10 minutes of light activity, then stretching each major muscle group for 20-30 seconds.
“Remember to hydrate,” Spencer adds. “Drink water 30 minutes before the activity and then every 15-20 minutes during the activity.”
She adds this advice: “Wear appropriate sports gear such as helmets, shin guards, mouth guards, ankle braces, cleats, etc. Don’t forget sunscreen for outdoor sports.”