Management of Chronic Sports Injuries
According to Sports Injury statistics of Children’s Hospital Pittsburg, over 30 million children participate in a variety of sports related activities each year, but unfortunately almost 10% (corresponds to 3.5 million children) develop significant sports injuries that affect the quality of their lives temporarily or permanently. The same website suggests that almost 33% of all injuries reported in adolescents are sports related that require time in the recovery process and may require rehabilitation services. The most common sports related injuries are acute and self-resolving; however, 775,000 children require serious hospital management in the emergency unit. The brain and other vital parts of the nervous system (like spinal cord or peripheral nerves) are involved in almost 21% of all recreational sports injuries in adolescents. Most brain injuries are fatal if emergent treatment is not instituted. The most common pattern of injury in adolescents is ligamentous tear, muscle sprain or straining of other connective tissue elements of joints. Most injuries are reported with sports like cycling, hiking, skating and skate-boarding and contact sports like football and basketball that account for 400,000 injuries each year in children under 15 years of age. One of every 4 such injuries is serious. Plantar fasciitis is reported in almost 10% of all athletes who are engaged in active running as part of practice or the sports activity itself.
Management of most sports related injuries is focused on decreasing the intensity of pain and inflammation by drugs and pain-killers. However, most musculo-skeletal injuries take longer to heal in young children when compared to adults due to the higher rate of physical activity and improper rest. If not managed properly, sports related injuries can change the entire life of your child. They can cause chronic pain and discomfort due to improper healing and scarring of injured ligaments and connective tissue. Due to altered healing, the child may develop permanent wrong posture to decrease the intensity of pain and thus increase the risk of stress and strain on normal tissues of the body. This eventually leads to an aggravated rate of tissues destruction and age related wear and tear changes. Ongoing disease processes in cervical or lumbar vertebrae or age related thickening of ligaments can limit the mobility of neck and may produce symptomatic pain during adult years. Injuries can also lead to the limitation of physical activity and inability to participate and compete in sports Besides decreasing the risk of sports related injuries by adopting proper preventive measures, it is also advised to manage and treat every case properly. Besides medical and surgical management (or correction), additional measures like physical therapy are extremely helpful. Physical therapy helps by creating proper alignment of all components of connective tissue in order to decrease the intensity, severity of pain by decreasing the inflammation. Most of the time, injured tissues didn’t get the nourishment and proper nutrition due to inflammatory swelling or damage to blood vessels during injury process. Physical therapy exercises help in improving the blood flow across the injured tissue to promote healing and regeneration. While improving the range of motion, physical therapy tactics help in the correction of posture by allowing your muscles and ligaments to perform in the state of least resistance and maximum comfort. This increases the overall tissue health and physical wellness among patients.
The benefits of physical therapy are immense and regardless of the age of the patient, active as well as passive physical therapy methods are available to manage individual cases. Massage is helpful in stimulating tissues, decreasing inflammation and increasing blood flow. It can be performed in patients of all age groups without any discomfort. Stretching exercises are helpful in realigning tissues and ligaments and at the same time, also help in decreasing the risk of scarring that is associated with permanent damage to connective tissue components leading to decrease in exercise endurance, chronic pain and discomfort and limitation of range of motion. There are a number of stretching exercises (suggested to patients according to age and nature of injuries) and include static, ballistic and Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Mild electric stimulation is helpful in cases when tissue damage is severe and pain (or discomfort) prevents the child from performing stretching exercises. Mild electric stimulation is helpful in preventing scarring of tissue while still keeping the injured tissue alive and reactive.