Parents: Be Aware of the Signs of Sports Injuries

As student-athletes train over the summer, preparing to head back to the practice fields later this season, injuries are going to happen. Despite concerted efforts to reduce and prevent sports injuries, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard pointed out that it’s impossible to eliminate them from sports. 

In order to ensure injuries are diagnosed and treated quickly, before they worsen, Eckard said it’s paramount parents and guardians are able to quickly identify the signs of possible injury – ailments that aren’t always obvious during practice or competition, but which may manifest later on at home. 

“Whether it’s because they’re concerned about playing time or feel they can tough it out, student-athletes won’t always admit when they’re hurt or injured,” said Eckard, co-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. “But even when a youth or teen is convinced it’s not that bad, that they can walk it off, etc., he or she could still be doing themselves harm by not getting treatment as soon as possible.” 

This is when it’s important for a parent or guardian to get involved, he said. 

“By just knowing some of the obvious signs that a young athlete isn’t just sore but is actually injured, parents can play an active role in ensuring injuries are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, preventing further damage from occurring,” said Eckard. 

Signs to watch out for include: 

  • Headaches, lightheadedness or dizziness, which may indicate a concussion. 
  • Limping or an appearance of pain when putting weight on and/or using a particular part of the body. 
  • Difficulty standing, sitting, stepping or moving around normally. 
  • Tingling, numbness or weakness in the limbs, fingers or toes. 
  • Difficulty sleeping. 
  • Sharp pain during practice, games or any physical activity. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 30 million children and adolescents in the U.S. participate in youth sports. Just the high school-aged students within this group account for around 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits each year. Of those under 14, 3.5 million receive medical treatment for sports injuries. 

“‘No pain, no gain’ doesn’t apply to youth sports, and there should be no such thing as ‘toughing it out,’” Eckard said. “If your child or teen is showing any of these signs, it’s important you get them evaluated as soon as you can.” 

In many cases, visiting a physical therapist can be an ideal starting point for such evaluations. Trained to provide sports injury assessments for athletes of all ages, physical therapists like those on the Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy team will triage the injury and, if necessary, provide direction if further diagnosis and treatment is necessary.   

6 Common Summer Activity Mistakes, with Solutions

For many, summer is defined by a whirlwind of outdoor activity, a natural response to warmer, brighter and warmer days. 

But as we venture out into the sun for yard work, bike rides, morning jogs, long hikes and swimming at the beach, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard warns people to avoid common summer exercise mistakes that can put them at risk of injury. 

“We all get excited when the weather allows us to get outside in the fresh air to do the things we love to do, but this excitement shouldn’t cause us to overlook precautions we should be taking to ensure we stay safe and free of injury,” said EckardCo-Owner of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

Some of these considerations take the heat into account, while others are simply good practices that often get overlooked during this time of year. Either way, Eckard offers solutions for overcoming the following mistakes people often make when engaging in outdoor activities (including exercise) during the summer months. 

Pushing Too Hard, Too Fast: The warmth and sunshine of summer may get your adrenaline going, but don’t take that as permission to overdo your workouts. Abide by the 10 percent rule, which dictates you should ramp up your duration and distances no more than 10 percent per week. And, be sure to give your body plenty of rest and recovery time to prevent potential injury. 

Not Warming Up Properly: Don’t assume the warm weather means your body’s already warm and ready to go. A thorough warm-up is essential before any exercise or activity, despite the temperature outside. It primes the nervous system for exercise so your body’s ready to work efficiently. A simple warm-up can include some brisk walking, light jogging, lunges, arm circles, etc. 

Dehydration: Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start hydrating. Dehydration came come on quickly when the weather’s hot, so get used to carrying around a water bottle, and always drink water before, during and after all workouts, regardless of intensity. 

Wearing Improper Footwear: You may walk around in sandals or flip-flops most of the summer, but trade them for a quality, supportive pair of shoes prior to working out. This is a no-brainer when going for a run or competing in a sport, but don’t overlook the importance of proper footwear when going for a walk, working in the yard, etc.  

Forgetting Sunscreen: Using a high-SPF sunscreen is critical in the long-term prevention of certain types of skin cancers. In the short term, it protects against sunburn, which could hinder your ability to fully enjoy the outdoors by making movement painful. Also, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a hat and sunglasses with UV protection. 

Ignoring Pain & Injury: If you feel some discomfort, pain or a possible injury, stop what you’re doing. Summer’s typically a time when you want to pack as much activity as you can into a weekend, but don’t do this as the expense of a long-term injury or health issue that, if untreated, can put a damper on the rest of the season. 

“If you feel, say, discomfort in your lower back or a sudden or nagging ache in your muscles or joints, it’s best to stop and get that checked out by a physical therapist as soon as you can,” Eckard said. “A PT will assess the pain, determine its cause, and offer a strategy for getting you back to what you love doing in the summertime.”  

Valencia Wellness: Tips for Preventing Painful Shin Splints this Running Season

The longer days and warmer weather of spring can be invigorating, enticing runners of all levels to up their games. But while this time of year may motivate one to increase the duration, frequency and intensity of their runs, Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard cautions that if the increase is too sudden, it could put the runner at the risk of a painful condition known as shin splints. 

“Shin splints isn’t a serious condition, but it can be painful and will most certainly hold runners and other active people back from their workout, and perhaps even other things they enjoy in life,” said Eckardco-owner and clinic director of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. 

Known in the medical world as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints present as soreness, tenderness and pain along the inside of the shin bone (tibia). At first, the pain may only be felt during a run or workout, Eckard said, but the condition may progress to the point where pain may be felt well after exercise. 

With about 3 million reported cases per year in the U.S., shin splints account for 13 to 17 percent of all running-related injuries. Dancers and military recruits also record a high incidence of shin splints. 

“People who take part in activities that involve high-impact stress on the legs are most susceptible to developing shin splints, especially during a time when the intensity of their exercise has suddenly increased,” said Eckard. “This increased stress can overwork the muscles, tendons and bone tissue in the lower leg, which can manifest as pain.” 

The key to overcoming shin splints, according to Eckard, is to rest. Take a few recovery days off from high-impact activities and exercises, and allow the body to heal. If you experience inflammation, ice can also be beneficial. 

However, it’s important, Eckard added, that runners and others susceptible to shin splints take steps to prevent the onset of the condition. Consider the following tips: 

Avoid overdoing it. When increasing the distance, duration, intensity and/or frequency of an exercise regimen such as running, do so gradually. Slowly building your fitness level over time is safer on the body than making quick, monumental leaps that can overload your shins. 

Wear proper shoes. Not only should you always wear a good pair of shoes, but the type of shoes you wear should fit your foot type. The right shoe for someone who’s flat-footed, for instance, won’t be right for someone with high arches, and vice versa. Also, wear the right type of shoes for your chosen activity or sport. 

Mix up your workouts. We all have our preferred ways of exercising, but mix it up once in a while. Alternate running with, say, cycling or swimming – something that still challenges you but with less impact on the body. 

Analyze your movement. A thorough, biomechanical running analysis performed by a physical therapist can identify movement patterns that may be leading to the onset of shin splints. You may find out that one small tweak in your running form can keep your shins healthy and pain-free. 

See a physical therapist. Besides performing a running analysis, a physical therapist is trained to analyze your entire kinetic chain to identify any imbalances or weaknesses that could put you at risk of pain or injury. From advising you on what shoes to wear to creating a personalized exercise regimen to help you move and perform better, teaming up with a physical therapist is an ideal step for those serious about pain and injury prevention. 

Valencia PT Offers Tips to Keep the Weekend Warrior Healthy, Injury Free

A “weekend warrior” is someone who, due to the hectic nature of a typical workweek, opts to cram most of her or his exercise into weekend workouts, activities, games and/or competitions.

And while Valencia physical therapist Tim Eckard says he’ll never fault anyone for getting exercise, he added that weekend warriors should be particularly cautious as the sporadic nature of their workout schedule puts them at a greater risk of getting injured.

“Days of downtime followed by sudden bursts of activity over a day or two isn’t ideal,” said Eckard, co-owner of Kinetix Advanced Physical Therapy in Valencia, Lancaster and Santa Clarita. “By putting greater stress on the body over a shorter period of time, weekend warriors should be aware that they’re putting themselves at greater risk of acute injuries, such as strains, sprains or worse.”

That’s because inactivity throughout the week can lead to a general deconditioning of the body that may include muscle tightness and imbalances, along with reduced endurance and cardiovascular fitness. A more consistent workout schedule can combat such deconditioning, Eckard says.

But if one truly does struggle to find time to achieve their expert-recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week without cramming them into just a couple of days, Eckard offers the following tips for avoiding injury.

Space It Out – Rather than packing your weekly exercise minutes into two back-to-back days at the end of the week, consider spacing these days out. This can help you avoid some of the deconditioning effects mentioned above.

Warm Up, Cool Down – When the weekend arrives and it comes time to take the field, hit the trails or tee off for 18, always warm up first. Take 5 to 10 minutes for some light resistance and cardio exercises to get the blood flowing. And after you’re done, cool down with some stretching. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout.

Temper Your Intensity – When you’re packing your workouts into just a couple days a week, don’t overdo it. As you’re not exercising as consistently, stay on the safe side by pulling back slightly on your intensity.

Mix It Up – Try not to fill your weekends with the same activities. Mix it up, perhaps focusing on cardio one weekend and strength another – or a variation thereof. This helps ensure your entire body remains balanced, reducing your chances of injury.

Stay Active During the Week – Even if you don’t have time to hit the gym during the week, don’t use that as an excuse to be completely sedentary. Capitalize on brief moments during the week to move around, stretch, and maybe even do some exercising. Take the stairs, stretch during your breaks, stand at your desk, walk during meetings or after work, and maybe even fit 10 minutes of at-home resistance training into your evenings.

Listen to Your Body – Always know your limits. And, if you feel aches and pains or suspect possible injury, stop exercising immediately and see a medical professional, such as a physical therapist. Don’t try to power through discomfort just so you can get through the weekend.