Recently, our practice has seen an influx of children involved in athletics. These gymnasts, wrestlers, runners and all types and levels of sports competition are some of the healthiest, most active kids in the area. Despite this, they are still experiencing more injuries that affect their ability to compete and play. I wanted to review a few of the preventive measures you and your kids could do to avoid injuries and what you can look for to decide if tthey might require professional intervention.
1. Stretching-- All kids should be stretching at least 2-3 times a day for 5-10 minutes. It prepares the body for activity and warms the muscles up. You would never see a professional athlete get on the court/field/ice without stretching. Kids are even more susceptible to injury. Their bones are lengthening, they are getting used to their new size so their muscles, tendons and ligaments are growing and changing. As a Chiropractor, we treat what is called "hypomobility," which is a loss of mobility. If you see a noticeable decrease in your range of motion in certain directions or movements, this should be evaluated.
2. Diet-- I love the commercial where the kids are running around dressed like the food they ate for lunch. The kids who ate fries or doughnuts move slowly, while those who ate better move quickly around them. This is a great way to look at it. Please feed the machine. Make healthy, green vegetables part of the diet. Protein is great, healthy carbs are necessary but if you want the human machine to function at 100%, feed it well. Do you think people who eat a good diet are more or likely to be injured? Recover from activities or injuries? You betcha!! Don't forget the water too!!
3. Sleep-- How many hours are your kids sleeping at night? Are they watching TV, video games or on the internet instead of getting at least 8 hours a sleep at night. The human machine needs sleep, a good amount of REM (dream cycle) sleeping to wake up rested and prepared. Do you have a good bed and pillows for your kids? Do you rotate their mattress? Do they sleep in a healthy resting position ? Babies may benefit from stomach sleeeping but kids and adults should sleep on their sides or back.
4. Proper biomechanics--Do your kids know how to lift their equipment safely? Understand how the spine works optimally? If you ever want to see good biomechanics, watch a weightlifter try and lift that huge, heavy bar up off the stage. His head is up, his legs are active (not just bent knees) and he grunts to make sure he exhales as he lifts. Did you know that2/3rds of your body weight is from your waist up? So, every time you bend to pick up a heavy box or just a light pencil, make sure you use good lifting techniques. When you lift something properly, you only lift just the weight of the object. If you lift improperly, imagine yourself lifting that weight PLUS 2/3rds your body weight.
5. Don't ignore symptoms in children-- Quite often we see children who have had symptoms for weeks or months before their parents bring them in to see the doctor. As a parent, I know sometimes it is hard to know if a child is faking or exaggerating their symptoms, but be aware of ongoing pain, muscle spasms, facial expressions that show the child is under duress. If you are not sure, bring your child in for a consultation. It is better to check early and find out the symptoms are not an indication of serious injury than to wait too long and make the child suffer unnecessarily.
What should you do if your child has pain, muscle spasms, headaches or other signs and symptoms? The birth trauma can lead to symptoms, numerous falls may injure a fragile, growing spine and when they play sports, the chance for injuries increase. Sports are a key part of a childs growth, developement and social interactions. it just takes a little time to do the 5 steps I listed earlier. But, if you are not sure what to do if your child demonstrates symptoms or just want to find out how to help your child reach their maximal health potential, consider bring them to our office. Our clinical director, Dr. Mark Schlobohm has worked with world class track and field athletes and PGA professsionals. Let us bring this expertise to your child and you.
Dr. Todd Cunningham