Sports-related injuries such as basketball, football and soccer account for more than 996,000 injuries and 775,000 hospital emergency room visits each year. With more than 30 million kids participating in organized sports in the United States and countless more engaging in other recreational activities, the Arthritis Foundation urges parents to understand the risk of these injuries can lead to arthritis later in life.
“Today’s young athletes may become tomorrow’s osteoarthritis patients, unless parents, coaches and children take an active role in sports injury prevention,” said John H. Klippel, M.D., medical director, Arthritis Foundation.
According to one study, a single knee injury early in life can put a person at five times the risk for osteoarthritis later in life; additionally a hip injury could more than triple your risk.
Osteoarthritis affects approximately 21 million of the nearly 43 million people with arthritis. Already the nation’s number one cause of disability, arthritis affects one in six people and is expected to reach epidemic proportions by 2020. This situation can be avoided through preventative measures, such as sports injury prevention, weight control and regular physical activity.
Dr. Klippel stresses that physical activity is not only generally safe, but it is beneficial for reducing the risks for osteoarthritis by strengthening the muscles that support and help stabilize the joints. In addition to individual and team sports, family recreational activities are healthy for all members of the family. These activities become harmful when basic steps in prevention are ignored.
The good news is that parents and coaches can help lower a child’s risk of arthritis from sports-related injuries by following a few basic guidelines:
– Make sure equipment is in good condition. Use of proper sports equipment under safe conditions is recommended to prevent joint injuries and their long-term effects. Parents should make sure equipment and gear fits correctly and that play equipment is age appropriate. Also be sure you replace worn out items. For example, a runner’s footwear should be replaced every 250 to 500 miles.
– Ensure training program or recreational activity gives attention to total body fitness. Sports practice and recreational activities should require movement in various areas of the body. Overusing a particular joint can cause immediate injury and future complications. Along with whole-body exercises, it’s important to ease back into a routine if you or your child has been inactive for a long period of time. For example, after a long summer break, children should begin exercising at home before their sport officially begins. The same holds true for other recreational activities. Ease into any new recreation such as roller sports, biking or playground activity.
– Ensure your child sticks to age-appropriate skills. In sports, as well as other recreation, it’s important to know what your child’s skill level should be for a particular activity at a certain age. Initiate an open dialogue with the coach to ensure his/her philosophy is appropriate. For example, an 8-year-old should not be pushed to pitch curve balls. That is more appropriate for a 14-year-old.
– Let injuries heal completely. Even when a joint has been injured, damage can often be avoided by allowing the affected area to heal completely before participating in the sport again. It’s important not to push your child to play while in pain. This could make the injury worse and increase the chances for long-term effects.