Photo of José F. Inzunza, M.D

By: José F. Inzunza, MD

With the new school year arriving, it brings new seasons for youth sports.  As an Orthopaedic Sports Medicine specialist, I have the pleasure of taking care of people, young and old, who sustain injuries that are caused by these extracurricular activities.  I would like to share some sports injury prevention tips so that hopefully you can spend more time on the field and less time in the doctor’s office.

1. Get a pre-season physical
It is vital to identify conditions in athletes that may result in serious consequences during participation in sports.  The most serious type is a heart condition called Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy (HOCM) that can result in sudden death during physical exertion.  Other conditions that are important to evaluate for include: recurrent head injuries, sickle cell disease/trait, hypermobile soft tissue disorders, and nutritional disorders, just to name a few.

2. Avoid Sport Specialization
Youth and adolescent sport specialization is a topic that has been increasingly studied in recent years.  There are numerous studies that have indicated that there is an increased risk of overuse type injuries when athletes younger than 18 years old play only a single sport year-round.  Playing two or three different sports throughout the year helps to activate different muscle groups and allow recovery of areas that tend to get overuse injuries.

3. Get the appropriate recovery
You can’t always be dialed in at 100% intensity while playing your sport.  In order to preserve your peak performance for when things count the most, it is important to give your mind and body appropriate time to recover.  Changing training intensity levels from day to day, and even planning for days off are ways to accomplish this.  There are studies that suggest that injury rates are higher when muscles are more fatigued.  Recovery programs should focus on things like nutrition, sleep, and low-intensity activities such as stretching.

4. Have a balanced diet
Maintaining a balanced diet is essential to help in recovery, reduce injury risk, and to keep your body performing at its best.  Food is the fuel that your body needs to power your muscles.  It supplies the building blocks for repairing muscles, tendons, and bones.  The higher the quality of what you put into your body, the better you can expect to perform.  Protein, fats, and carbohydrates all have a role in forming your overall nutrition, so not one category should be neglected.  Additionally, the timing of consumption of things like carbohydrates prior to workouts is important to help provide needed energy.

5. Stay well hydrated
By weight, your body is made up from almost 2/3 water.  This can fluctuate significantly depending on how well hydrated you are.  At a minimum, being dehydrated will temporarily decrease your strength and endurance.  Moreover, dehydration can lead to serious conditions such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can be life-threatening.  Water is also an important component of the cartilage that lines the bones of your joints.  Dehydration can make cartilage more prone to injury, which can lead to joint pain.  It is critical to replenish fluid and electrolyte losses that occur, both during and after activity.

6. Don’t play through injuries, seek help early on
Much like every other aspect of our individual health, problems are easier to treat the sooner they are brought to the attention of a medical provider.  Chronic injuries can begin to cause irreversible damage if they are ignored over time.  Look at the big picture and understand that a small sacrifice now can prevent a problem that will follow you for the rest of your sporting career or even through your adult life.

If you do need an evaluation of an injury, feel free to visit the Sports Medicine Center at Jackson North Medical Center, and I will be happy to be a part of your team!

José F. Inzunza, MD, is the Associate Medical Director of Orthopedic Surgery at Jackson North Medical Center. To schedule an appointment, please call 305-654-6850 or visit https://jacksonhealth.org/orthopaedics for more information.