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Upper Body Injuries in Adolescent Football Athletes

Common Injuries in Football

As summer break begins and young athletes enjoy their well-deserved rest, it’s crucial for parents to be aware of the common risks their football-playing teens face on the field. Football, with its physical demands and competitive nature, often leads to injuries that can impact a player’s season and long-term health. In this blog, tailored by pediatric orthopedics for parents, we delve into upper body injuries that frequently occur in adolescent football athletes. Understanding these injuries now can help parents and athletes prepare for the upcoming school season and the rigorous pre-season training starting in August.

Shoulder Dislocations 

Shoulder dislocations are a frequent concern in football, often resulting from intense collisions on the field. Anterior dislocations, where the upper arm bone (humerus) moves out of the shoulder socket and towards the front, are common and typically managed with immobilization and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and swelling. These injuries can disrupt the season but are generally treatable with proper care. In contrast, posterior dislocations, where the humerus shifts towards the back, pose greater risks. They can damage vital structures like nerves and blood vessels, necessitating more intensive treatment such as ligament reconstruction. Awareness of these distinctions is vital for parents and athletes as they prepare for the challenges of the upcoming football season.

Tears 

Tears such as clavicle fractures and joint ligament tears are prevalent in youth football due to the physical demands and collisions inherent to the sport. Clavicle fractures, often caused by direct impact or falls onto the shoulder, require accurate diagnosis typically through imaging like CT scans to assess the extent of the injury. Treatment options vary based on severity, ranging from non-surgical methods such as icing, immobilization, and targeted physical therapy to surgical interventions in more severe cases. Similarly, ligament tears, particularly in the shoulder or knee joints, can sideline young athletes without proper management. Understanding these potential injuries and their treatments is crucial for parents and athletes as they navigate the upcoming football season.

Head Injuries 

Concussions are a significant concern in football, often occurring due to impacts and collisions during play. These injuries can manifest with symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating, underscoring the importance of prompt recognition and appropriate management. Rest is critical in the initial stages of recovery, allowing the brain time to heal, followed by a gradual return to activity under medical supervision. Awareness and proactive measures regarding concussions are essential for parents, coaches, and athletes to ensure the safety and well-being of young players on the field.

Preventing Football Injuries

Preventing injuries is crucial in adolescent football to ensure players can enjoy the sport safely and sustainably. Coaches and parents play pivotal roles in injury prevention by emphasizing proper technique and conditioning during training sessions. Ensuring athletes use well-fitted protective gear, including helmets, shoulder pads, and appropriate footwear, can mitigate the risk of impact-related injuries. Additionally, implementing warm-up and cool-down routines, along with strength and flexibility exercises, helps prepare young athletes physically and reduce the likelihood of muscle strains and joint injuries. Education on recognizing injury signs and promoting open communication among players, coaches, and medical staff further enhances safety measures on the field. 

Proper Equipment / Shoes 

Ensuring proper fitting and maintenance of protective gear, including helmets and shoulder pads, is essential in reducing the risk of upper body injuries in football. Helmets must fit snugly and be regularly inspected for any signs of wear and tear to protect against head injuries effectively. Shoulder pads should provide adequate coverage and mobility, distributing impact forces evenly to prevent fractures and dislocations. Additionally, choosing the right footwear is crucial, as well-fitted cleats can enhance stability and traction on the field, reducing the likelihood of slips, falls, and associated injuries. Consistent checks and maintenance of all gear can help safeguard young athletes, allowing them to play confidently and safely.

Stretching 

Implementing dynamic stretching routines before practices and games is a vital component in preparing young athletes for the physical demands of football. These stretches, which involve active movements that take joints and muscles through their full range of motion, help increase blood flow, enhance flexibility, and improve overall muscle function. By incorporating dynamic stretching into their pre-game and pre-practice routines, athletes can better prepare their bodies for the intensity of the sport, potentially reducing injury rates. This proactive approach to warm-up not only enhances performance but also contributes to the long-term health and resilience of adolescent football players.

Treating Football Injuries

Effective treatment is essential for helping young athletes recover from football injuries and return to the field safely. Depending on the severity and type of injury, treatment can range from non-invasive methods to surgical interventions. Key components of a comprehensive treatment plan include diagnostic imaging, surgical procedures when necessary, and tailored physical therapy programs. Each of these elements plays a vital role in ensuring optimal recovery and long-term health for adolescent football players.

Imaging

Diagnostic tools such as CT scans are essential for accurately assessing the extent of injuries, including shoulder dislocations and fractures, in adolescent football athletes. These advanced imaging techniques provide detailed views of the bones, joints, and surrounding structures, enabling precise diagnosis and informed treatment planning. By identifying the specific nature and severity of an injury, medical professionals can tailor their approach, whether it involves non-surgical methods like immobilization and physical therapy or surgical interventions for more severe cases. The use of accurate imaging not only aids in effective treatment but also helps monitor the healing process, ensuring athletes receive the best possible care and can safely return to the field.

Surgeries

Surgical interventions are sometimes necessary to restore function and prevent long-term complications in adolescent football athletes, particularly in cases of severe injuries. For instance, ligament reconstructions may be required for serious shoulder dislocations to repair and stabilize the damaged joint. These surgeries aim to restore the normal anatomy and function of the shoulder, allowing athletes to regain strength and mobility. Post-surgical rehabilitation is crucial to ensure a full recovery, involving a combination of physical therapy and a gradual return to activity. By addressing severe injuries with appropriate surgical treatments, we can help young athletes overcome significant setbacks and continue to participate in the sport they love.

Physical Therapy

Rehabilitation programs tailored to the individual athlete’s injury are crucial for regaining strength and mobility, promoting a safe return to play. These customized physical therapy plans address the specific needs and challenges of each injury, whether it’s a shoulder dislocation, fracture, or ligament tear. Through a combination of exercises, manual therapy, and other modalities, physical therapists work to restore the injured area to its optimal function. This personalized approach not only helps athletes recover more effectively but also educates them on proper movement techniques to prevent future injuries. By prioritizing comprehensive rehabilitation, we can ensure that young football players return to the field stronger and more resilient.

When To See The Pediatric Orthopedic Center

If you suspect your child has a football injury, contact The Pediatric Orthopedic Center at (973) 538-7700 or by filling out the request an appointment form. As the premier hub for pediatric orthopedics in New Jersey, with three offices throughout northern NJ, The Pediatric Orthopedic Center has been leading the field for over 30 years. Our award-winning practice is the largest in the tri-state area, providing expert care and utilizing the latest advancements, such as bio-absorbable screws, to ensure your child receives the best possible treatment and returns to their active lifestyle swiftly and safely.

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Walk-In Hours Update

*Urgent and Acute Injuries Only during Urgent Care/Walk-in Clinic hours. To find out if your child’s injury qualifies for a walk-in visit, click here. (Walk-in fees may apply.)

Monday:

Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm

Tuesday:

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Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm

Wednesday:

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Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm

Thursday:

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Friday:

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