Physical activity of any kind can be very demanding on the body. Athletes who spend significant amounts of time training and competing in sporting events are particularly vulnerable to injury. While not every sport is exceedingly strenuous, many have the potential to cause harm to the body.
Football, in particular, is a sport that can cause immense strain on the body. Sprains, muscle tears, bone fractures, and concussions are just a few of the types of injuries that are likely to occur while playing this sport. While injuries can occur due to circumstances beyond one’s control, there are common mistakes made by athletes that usually result in injury.
“Most of these injuries take place due to mistakes in technique,” DHS JV football coach Aaron Wladischkin said in an email interview. “This includes not tackling or blocking with the correct form. Many injuries also come from lack of preparation. This means players do not lift weights, condition, or stretch before competing and practicing.”
Choosing to specialize in one specific sport can also make an athlete more susceptible to injury.
“A mistake that people make is they train the muscles that they use in that sport and they fail to train the muscles that they don’t use in that sport,” Human Body Systems teacher Richard Blasy said. “And so that makes the body asymmetrical and therefore it can usually lead to more injuries.”
Due to this, Blasy emphasizes the importance of playing multiple sports. This gives athletes the chance to work out different muscle groups to make the body more resistant to injury. However, even with playing multiple sports, athletes can still be susceptible to muscle overuse which can be damaging to the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, overusing muscles can lead to overuse injuries such as tendinitis and stress fractures.
Muscle overuse injuries are particularly common among young athletes.
“The other injuries I do kinda tend to worry about more is once we start getting into the vicious cycle of overuse injuries, particularly with kids who play like three sports year-round, those can really add up quickly,” athletic trainer Alek Molenaar said. “And if there’s like multiple practices, even in the same day, it’s really hard to get out of the injury-reinjury phase, without just saying, hey, we need to stop for a little bit work on this rehab.”
Out of all the possible injuries that can occur while playing sports, one of the most dangerous and unpredictable ones is concussions.
“Concussions are the scariest part,” Blasy said. “You mess with the brain and it can impact the rest of your life and change the rest of your life. It’s not something you can really see either.”
According to the University of Michigan Health, concussions are frequent occurrences in athletics, with almost four million happening every year. Concussions aren’t always immediately recognized because their symptoms might not show up until hours after the injury took place. A few of the most common symptoms that signify a concussion include increasingly painful headaches, disorientation or confusion, and unconsciousness. In certain cases, seizures can also occur.
Michigan has laws in place pertaining to concussion protocol. According to the Michigan Legislature’s public health code, coaches and others working with minors in athletic settings are required to continuously partake in a training program on recognizing and responding to concussions.
Athletes under the age of 18 and their parents must also be given resources designed to inform them about the warning signs and effects of concussions as well as give written consent that they have been given this information. Additionally, adolescent athletes who have a concussion, or could have a concussion, are not allowed to resume physical activity until they have the approval of a licensed medical professional.
“We do have emergency action plans in place for those super severe, typically head and neck injuries,” Molenaar said. “We do have a concussion protocol which is typically a five-day return to sport plan after they’ve been cleared by a physician.”
While many sports injuries are due to accidents, there are some actions that athletes can take to keep preventable injuries from occurring. Following through with recovery plans after an injury is one way to keep future injuries from recurring. Warming up or stretching the body often, specifically before practices, games, and workouts is another way athletes can reduce the risk of injury. Blasy implemented this practice during his time as a DHS hockey coach by having his players do yoga several times a week.
“The more flexible you are, the less likely you are to be injured,” Blasy said. “You see so many times where athletes are put in these really strange positions accidentally but if they have a big range of motion they’re more likely to bounce back from that versus if the body is tight and the body is put in a strange position, they’re more likely to get injured in that position.”
Making sure to stay hydrated and eating right can also reduce the risk of injury. It’s important to drink enough water and start off the day with some form of breakfast in order to maintain the energy levels needed for participating in any sort of mental and physical activity. Sleep is another crucial element in injury prevention.
“Sleep is a double-edged sword because not only is that helping you with your energy for the day and being able to get through a two and a half sometimes three-hour practice, it’s also super important in recovery,” Molenaar said. “It’s helping those muscles heal. When you’re working out you get these little micro-tears in your muscles and you get stronger as you make more of those. But when you’re not sleeping, it’s not healing. So now you’re really technically getting injured. And that’s where that it can snowball into more injury.”