By Mandy Vonderheid

Whether you’re an athlete on the field, a parent in the stands, or a community member watching highlights on the local evening news, high school fall sports are exciting for everyone.

However, there’s another person you may see consistently on the sidelines or at the finish line – a certified athletic trainer (ATC).

Athletic training is recognized as an allied healthcare profession, and an athletic trainer’s role is the prevention, examination, recognition, and treatment /rehabilitation of emergent, acute or chronic injuries and medical conditions.

ATCs are always prepared to care for injuries, so parents can rest assured that their children will receive the best, most appropriate care and referral options for their injury when an ATC is present.

For athletic trainers, the fall is fast-paced and busy – but also very thrilling. What keeps us busy? Some common injuries that especially seem to strike athletes in the fall.

In this blog, I’ll discuss three common fall sports injuries and how to prevent them.

Concussion

Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries caused by a blow to the head or body resulting in the brain moving rapidly inside of the skull. This can cause headache, confusion, and even nausea/vomiting.

Contact sports have higher occurrences of concussions, but they can happen from any recreational activity.

Recognition of a concussion and removal from activity are very important in the treatment and care of head injuries.

Here at SPO we offer complimentary sports physical and ImPact testing for athletes whose schools do not offer this baseline test.

ImPact is a FDA-cleared medical test used by healthcare professionals to measure brain function prior to a head injury. If an athlete sustains a head injury, ImPact post-injury testing helps medical professionals assess the patient’s brain-function status, make concussion treatment decisions, and determine return-to-activity readiness.

Patients should be cleared by a physician before returning to activity. It is never safe to return to activity before being cleared, as it can have devastating consequences and even be life-threatening.

It’s impossible to prevent all concussions, especially in contact sports. However, abating the number of incidences is a reasonable goal. This can be done through properly fitted protective equipment and practicing proper sport technique, such as tackling in football.

Other key components include mandating proper return-to-play protocol and concussion education for athletes, parents, and coaches.

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (shin splints)

Shin splints are a common overuse injury, particularly for athletes in a sport that requires a lot of running, like cross-country or soccer. Pain usually manifests itself along the lower part of the shin bone (tibia).

There are many reasons you may develop shin splints. One is doing too much too soon. It’s essential that you gradually increase your activity level (primarily at the beginning of the season) to help your body adapt to the demands of the sport.

You can also help prevent shin splints by doing an active warm-up preceding activity and stretching after activity. Wearing good-fitting, activity-specific footwear that is not too worn is a great way to help avoid this overuse stress injury.

ACL Tear

In athletics, joints are constantly dealing with the stress of the sport. When stress to a joint is more than it can bear, and it is forced into an unnatural position, anatomical structures like ligaments can be stretched (sprained) or torn.

ACL Knee Diagram

A ligament is a fibrous connective tissue that connects bone to bone. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) within the knee joint gives it stability and prevents the shin bone (tibia) from sliding too far forward.

ACL tears often happen when an athlete makes a sudden change in direction or rapid deceleration, or is contacted by another athlete.

Not all ACL tears are preventable, especially if they result from contact with another athlete. However, most ACL tears occur in a non-contact fashion.

To help prevent non-contact ACL tears, an athlete should work on having adequate strength in one’s hips, practice proper jump-landing technique, practice balance and agility, do dynamic warmups prior to exercise, stretch after activity, and refrain from pushing through leg pain or fatigue. Listen to your body!

Enjoy your fall sports season – stay healthy!