Every year, high school athletes suffer an estimated 2 million injuries, which result in nearly 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 trips to the hospital.
Injuries today have become so common in contact sports like football, soccer, and basketball. From broken bones, to ACL tears, concussions, and even ankle sprains — young athletes are always at risk when training, practicing, or playing in a game.
No matter how much preparation and training is done by a young athlete, many times these ailments cannot be avoided, and can require months of serious rehab.
Jared White, Head of Athletic Training at IMG Academy, has been around young athletes for a long time and said there are a number of injuries that are tough to come back from. One particular type of injury that sticks out to him as most difficult for rehabilitation is injury to growth plates.
“You’ve got athletes who are injuring an area of a bone that needs to continue to expand, grow, and mature,” he said. “And when they have injuries to these growth plates it sometimes does effect mechanically what they are able to do down the road.”
Not only is the physical recovery from certain injuries tough, many athletes suffer mentally from major and minor setbacks.
White said being injured and trying to work your way back into gameplay in rehab is one of the hardest situations for an athlete, but being able to keep yourself in a team situation during your rehab is extremely important for your progression.
“The most important thing for us as athletic trainers to do is to make sure we’re putting an athlete in an environment where they still feel like they are part of a team,” he said. “Where they still feel like they have a role, they are needed, and feel like they can contribute.”
Along with this, he also said putting the athlete in game like situations on the field or on the court during rehab gives them a mental and physical challenge. This will make them even more comfortable before their return.
Despite the efforts of the athlete to fully rehab their injury, many times they may re-injure themselves in their training or once they return. White said that a few things can be done to try to avoid re-injury.
- Continue to focus on the total body function, not just the injured area all of the time.
- Don’t rehab by yourself — work with a professional on a rehab program so you don’t miss any important recovery.
- Don’t overwork yourself in your rehab program — this can lead to burnout or overwork of the injured area. Rest and recovery is vital.
For a young athlete on the recovery trail, White said the biggest thing is to make sure to set short term goals that you can obtain as you go, such as getting yourself up and walking by a certain time period after the injury once you have been cleared to do so.
Along with this White is a big believer in having the right mindset along with your goals, and looking at your injury in the most positive light possible during your recovery.
“Instead of looking at injuries as a negative, it’s being able to turn it around and look at it in a positive light,” he said. “’How can this setback make you better?’ Injuries are going to happen because it’s part of sports, but what you can do to turn it into a positive is really up to you.”