Dr. Kevin D. Plancher, MD, MPH, with Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Explains Best Practices for Young Athletes and Tips for Staying Injury-Free

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Keep your young kids in the game.

Dr. Kevin Plancher

With so many benefits to athletic participation for young kids, it’s important that playing their favorite sports doesn’t lead to time on the sidelines due to injuries.

With so many benefits to athletic participation for young kids, it’s important that playing their favorite sports doesn’t lead to time on the sidelines due to injuries. But by following best practices for young athletes, parents can help them stay injury-free, says orthopaedic surgeon Kevin D. Plancher, MD, MPH, founder of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Youth sports in the United States are extremely popular. According to a 2016 report by the Aspen Institute, 3 out of 4 American households have at least one school-aged child who’s participating in organized athletics. And among kids who participate, 60% of boys and 47% of girls are on a team by age 6.

“The upsides to starting athletics early are tremendous. Research shows young kids who play team sports do better in school and don’t partake in as many unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking or drinking,” Dr. Plancher says. “But because many young kids are also more likely than ever to play their favorite sport year-round, the chances of experiencing sports-related injuries increases. There are sensible ways, however, to keep your young kids in the game.”

Benefits of sports for young kids
Several national organizations promote youth sports, and all tout the many physical and emotional benefits of athletic participation among young children. According to Dr. Plancher, these include:

  • Building self-esteem
  • Developing leadership skills
  • Learning teamwork
  • Relieving stress
  • Developing healthy habits
  • Having fun

Smart ways to prevent injuries
Even with the increased risk of sports injuries that come with more time on the field, parents can encourage best practices among their kids that help young athletes ward off injuries, Dr. Plancher says. Smart prevention tactics include:

  • Promoting cross-training: Changing sports or activities throughout the year doesn’t just help young athletes learn other games – it’s better for their bodies, Dr. Plancher says. “Putting stress on the same muscles and joints can increase the odds for injuries,” he adds.
  • Stressing warm-ups: Make sure your child understands the importance of stretching to help loosen muscles and joints before play. “Warm-ups should include a combination of light calisthenics, like jumping jacks, with static stretches like toe-touches,” Dr. Plancher explains.
  • Encouraging rest periods: Sleep is important to everyone, but especially to youths heavily involved in sports. “Resting between practices and games is also key,” he says, “because overuse injuries are influenced by not getting enough rest.”
  • Providing pre-season physicals: Starting off a new sports season with a physical is a great way to pinpoint any problems that could hinder a young athlete’s performance, Dr. Plancher notes.
  • Offering a balanced diet: A diet rich in lean proteins, fruits and vegetables may be good for everyone, but keeps young athletes’ energy levels high, he says.
  • Getting the right equipment: Sports equipment such as helmets, pads and proper footwear can all help prevent injuries. They must fit correctly.
  • Seeking help early: Many young athletes have injuries that both they and their parents ignore in hopes they’ll get better on their own, Dr. Plancher says. “This is a bad idea, since now the damage can get worse,” he adds. “Get your child to a doctor as soon as you’re aware of any sports injury or change in performance.”

Using these sensible approaches, there’s no reason young athletes can’t keep playing their chosen sports for as long as they desire. “The pros of playing team sports for young kids far outweigh any negatives, so keeping them safe on the field should be parents’ highest priority,” Dr. Plancher says.

Kevin D. Plancher, MD, MPH, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon. He founded Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine and serves as Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Since 2001, he has been listed annually in the Castle Connolly directory as a “top doctor” in his field.

Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is a comprehensive orthopaedics and sports medicine practice with offices in New York City and Greenwich, CT. http://www.plancherortho.com

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