Fall Sports Injuries: What to Expect And When to Seek Treatment

By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer

They’re here… the dog days of summer.

August ushers in a longing for fall.

For my family and many, many more Southern families, August through October are some of the happiest days of the year. The Braves are still playing, our beloved Dawgs are donning pads, Flowery Branch is bustling with Falcons and fall sports have arrived.

This is when I break out my tape, dust off my shoulders and get ready to haul some coolers. It’s time for our kids to hit the grid iron, the trails, the softball diamond and the soccer fields. Along with the festivals, ball games and homework, though, come injuries. With that in mind, I thought I’d give you all my advice on what to anticipate and prepare for injury-wise with our fall sports.

First and foremost, make sure your athlete has his or her physical. Most clubs and schools require a pre-participation physical, but if not, get one anyway. Make sure you see a medical practitioner who has a solid background in sports medicine. Also, be completely honest and thorough on the history portion of the health questionnaire. This will allow the certified athletic trainer (ATC) and doctor to better assess your athlete for participation. Maybe a more in-depth physical is needed, but the student athlete will be better cared for while playing if we have an in-depth medical history.

So… while our fall sports are mainly football, softball, cross country track, fall baseball and fall club soccer, I’m sure there are some club lacrosse, volleyball, swim, etc. as well. I’m going to touch on common injuries that occur in all of these and highlight the sports where we see these injuries in the most.

As always, if you are concerned about your athlete, seek medical attention. Gwinnett Medical Center has a full Sports Medicine program. In addition to staffing ATCs at most Gwinnett County High Schools, GMC’s Concussion Institute provides concussion care and the GMC Running Clinic offers professional advice and training for runners of all ages. Do take advantage of these services for yourself or for your athlete.

Concussions

Concussion is by far one of the most common injuries that occurs in fall sports. Football and women’s soccer carry the highest incidence among athletics. Football is highest because of its  contact nature and women’s soccer due to the lack of neck strength when winning headers.

A concussion is basically a bruise to the brain due to direct impact or an indirect force causing the brain to move and impact the bones of the skull. Sometimes there is enough damage done during a blow to the head to cause significant injury immediately. Sometimes the concussion is minor with a few symptoms and they clear quickly. However, if an athlete returns to play before the bruised brain has healed and they are struck again, no matter how minor, they can suffer devastating injuries resulting in permanent brain damage. Second impact syndrome is real and devastating. This is scary, but can be avoided. Always be honest about symptoms to your ATC or physician. Yes, the athlete will not play, but for good reason. ATCs are trained to evaluate head trauma and have vast knowledge on signs and symptoms as the athlete progresses through recovery and return to play. Listen and respect the ATCs and physicians as concussed athletes return to play. Concussions can and do happen in any sport, but football and soccer are the most common fall sports where we see concussions.

Sprains

All sports carry a risk of sprains. Sprains occur when the ligaments that connect our bones together are pulled. They range from minor to complete tears (think ACL tears in the knee). If your athlete has a sprain that limits function, seek medical care.

Strains

All sports carry a risk for strains. Strains occur when the muscles are stretched to the point of minor to complete tears. These are painful and render the body area immobile if the tear is significant. Again, if pain is significant or there is a decrease in muscle movement, seek medical care.

Bruises and fractures

Of course fractures do occur in all sports, but most minor to major fractures occur in the contact sports: football, athlete-to-ground collisions, base-runner-and-position-player collisions, body-to-body contact collisions in soccer, etc. Sometimes overuse of a body part can result in stress fractures (minute fractures due to repetitive motion.) These are most common in the feet and lower leg bones. Runners or sports with large volume of running are most susceptible. Pain in an exact location that doesn’t move and gets worse with activity needs to be evaluated.

Again, these are the most common injuries we see in the fall sports. No sport is immune from the bizarre, so, be discerning and seek the advice of the ATC who works your athlete’s sport.

Hope you all have a safe and sporting fall!

To learn more about Gwinnett Medical Center’s complete sports medicine program, including our Running Clinic, visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org.

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