Youth sports injuries can cause problems down the road

Painful ACL tears have become more common in kids playing sports
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 7:52 AM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - No matter the time of year, it always seems to be youth sports season. On the field, court, rink or at home on the lawn, injuries are bound to happen. There are ways to try to prevent them.

A common injury Dr. Matthew Tao from Nebraska Medical Center sees in young athletes is overuse of the body. It’s a simple fix. Tao said the body is not meant to do repetitive motion every day for a year. Examples of overuse include tiny tears in muscle fibers, stress on a tendon, or bruising of the bone. He said taking breaks of at least a month from a particular sport is a good way to prevent overuse.

“It’s not to pick on our baseball players, but particularly young boys that throw year-round day after day over the course of the whole year. It really does set you up for some of these overuse type injuries, which, in general, we feel are probably preventable,” said Dr. Matthew Tao, Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

There’s one common injury in youth sports that has grown in the last decade, and it could have lifelong effects on the body. An ACL tear is painful. It makes your knee unstable, but it can also cause arthritis later down the road. An ACL injury typically occurs when athletes are jumping, pivoting, or making a rapid change of direction. ACL tears are Tao’s main focus. He said research from the University of Nebraska shows that 50% of people have signs of arthritis on x-rays 10 years after the tear.

“We’re really looking at trying to understand that better, because we really don’t have a good understanding of why that happens. But ultimately, obviously, the goal is to try to mitigate and reduce that risk going forward,” said Tao.

There are recovery options from ACL tears. He said recovery can range from strength training, conditioning, and physical therapy. The injury could also require surgery. It doesn’t mean you should quit being active. An active lifestyle fights childhood obesity, and physical and emotional health. Tao said sports have their rewards and to be aware of these injuries, but not to be afraid of them.