Teenage Sports Injuries - Girls Rival the Boys!

By Dr. Scott E. Rosenthal

Do it for the team! Give it your all! Work through it! Push harder! Suck it up! Such commands are common on the field, court, mat or pool. The rush and excitement of competing is incredible. Testing one's ability and seeing just how far the body and mind can be pushed is irresistible. Despite the upside, ranging from fitness to confidence building, teenagers also experience the downside of suffering greater injury from sports than ever! Mention sports injuries common to young adults, and most people visualize boys running into other boys on the football field, or they may recall the grunts and yelps from boys engaged in a wrestling match. Feeling lucky that you have girls? Hold on! After treating teenage athletes for over 20 years, I have seen a girls' sport that rivals any of the boys' for causing severe injuries to the developing spine, skull bones and extremities. I am referring to the highly acrobatic sport of competitive cheerleading.

Injuries from playing girls' soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, running, dance and tennis are common. However, requiring unique and demanding activities, like flying through the air or building human pyramids that reach 15 feet or higher, cheerleading has moved beyond the encouraging yells and waving of pompoms. It has become the leading cause of injuries for teenage girls who come to my office.

As a former competitive high school athlete with many fond memories of the soccer field, my role is NOT to suggest your child stop altogether, but for you to become aware of the risks involved. You need to be vigilant. Chiropractic care can help your daughter grow and develop normally, perform at her peak level and recover more quickly. It will also aid in the prevention of injuries that can plague her for a lifetime!

The statistics are not much to cheer about. According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most common causes of injury are from basing/spotting (23%), tumbling (14%–26%), and falls from heights (14%–25%). Stunting accounts for 42% to 60% of all cheerleading injuries and 96% of concussions and closed-head injuries. Pyramid stunts are responsible for the majority of head/neck injuries (50%–66%). I have seen cheerleading injuries to the spinal joints, knees, wrists, shoulders and head. Serious injuries have involved the spinal disks and one case of a painful misalignment of the coccyx, the tip of the tailbone.

Not all injury is painful. Damaged soft tissue and joints may exist without symptoms. The covert injury may lessen your young athlete's level of performance by diminishing her coordination, flexibility and strength. Untreated injuries or those masked with pain medications may increase the susceptibility of future insult. This is seen when a serious incident seems to spring out of the blue. Think about the time you witnessed a young athlete perform a simple routine or move, one that she has done hundreds of times, only to see her stop in the middle with gripping pain?

Assessing your child's state may be complicated if she maintains a stoic appearance. She may be reluctant to disclose that she is feeling pain because she fears being benched by her coach or a parent. Her condition may be masked with over-the-counter pain relievers. You can assess your child for pain or injury by doing the following:

  • Start by asking her if she has pain anywhere in her body when she is stationary or moving.
  • See if she can turn her head equally as far to the right as to the left.
  • Have her do the same rotation with her torso and lower back and compare the movements.
  • Have her move all of the joints of her arms and legs and compare one side to the other.
  • Check to see if there is any swelling of her joints.
  • Have her stand facing you. Look to see if one shoulder is higher, her head is tilted, or one hip is higher than the other.
  • See if one foot turns out more than the other.
  • Feel if the muscles along her spine are tighter than those on the other side, above or below.

The role of chiropractic in the teenage athlete is the same as it is with the pros. The doctor of chiropractic is trained to examine for misalignment of joints and problems involving muscles and connective tissues. If the spinal segments become misaligned from the many moves involved while performing sports, the nerves exiting the spine may become damaged. Therefore, the brain will be less able to control and coordinate bodily functions. Athletic performance suffers. In addition to poor nerve function, the mechanical deficits of spinal and/or other joint misalignment creates a burden on muscles and connective tissues. Recovery is hindered and further injury encouraged. This cascade of events can quickly end a season. Furthermore, unlike adults, the younger athlete must consider the effects of injury on the growing body.

Research on the role chiropractic plays in naturally enhancing physical performance has produced findings worth shouting about! A group of athletes under chiropractic care were compared to a control group that received no care. Agility, balance, power, speed reaction, and hand reaction time were all measured. They improved dramatically in the chiropractic group. The following results were found:

  • After six weeks, the chiropractic group had an overall 10.7 percent improvement in athletic ability.
  • The control group had a 4.5 percent improvement.
  • After 12 weeks, the chiropractic group's improvement was 16.7 percent!

The study’s author concluded that: “the [chiropractic] athlete reacts faster, coordinates better, executes fine movements with improved accuracy and precision, amounting to an overall better athlete."

Doctors of chiropractic utilize techniques that gently realign joints and relieve muscle and connective tissue issues. Treatment is effective, drug and surgery-free and typically feels good. Other treatments such as cold laser therapy, massage therapy and specific nutritional supplementation may also be used.

If your child is active in sports, it's time to go for a chiropractic check-up. If she is injured or demonstrates imbalances during any of the above tests, act with haste. The care will help her recover and prevent further and future injury. She will perform at a higher level and find it easier to go the distance. With a few chiropractic visits, she'll really have something to cheer about!

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/15/peds.2012-2480.full.pdf
Lauro, B.M. Chiropractic effects on athletic ability. Chiropractic: The Journal of Chiropractic Research and Clinical Investigations, 1991, 6(4), pp.84-87

Dr. Scott Rosenthal provides quality chiropractic care to patients in Wilmington, Delaware. He also writes a monthly column in Living Well Magazine. Whether you're searching for effective pain relief or a way to boost whole body wellness, Rosenthal Chiropractic can help.

Call our office at (302) 999-0633 for an appointment today!