The following is a recap of my interview with athletic trainer, Kyle Butters. Kyle has been a licensed athletic trainer with Aurora Sports Medicine for more than 20 years and is the head athletic trainer at West Bend High Schools. He received his education from the University of Northern Iowa.
With high school sports back in full swing, I thought it would be beneficial to interview Kyle Butters to get a better understanding of what injuries our children can experience while participating in high school sports, and what treatments and training options are available to them.
If your child is involved in high school athletics, you know the competition is pretty intense. My daughter Hannah has been playing school volleyball and club volleyball since she was in fifth grade. Some sports, like volleyball, have turned into year-round sports. If your child plays multiple sports, or you have several children involved in sports, you know how chaotic life becomes.
Because of year-round play, our children are even more susceptible to sports-related injuries. My daughter Hannah and her friends experienced many minor injuries while playing club volleyball, as well as while running track.
Kyle offers these tips for preventing and treating sports-related injuries:
Q. What can teen athletes do in the off-season that would help prevent injuries during the regular season?
A. The off-season is very important. This is where an athlete’s performance can improve no matter what the sport. My goal is to get athletes up a level from the previous year so the athlete can see his or her gains. Kids can do exercises during the off-season or participate in club sports which helps keep them in shape.
The success of a player, as well as the team, depends a lot on off-season training. Every sport has specific needs and all athletes have different energy systems. Working with a personal trainer or athletic trainer through the school is important. These professionals can evaluate the sport your child is in and design training programs for the specific athlete. Some sports require more cardio training, while others require strength training. For example, volleyball conditioning deals with jump training. If jump mechanics are poor, more injuries will occur. Players need to jump appropriately, so the goal is to change poor mechanics through repetitive training and strength training, thus reducing injuries.
If an athlete doesn’t want to participate in a group off-season training program through the school, he or she should consider working individually with a personal or athletic trainer.
Q. A lot of attention has focused on concussions. Can you talk about the process before and after a concussion?
A. This has become a hot topic because we’re seeing an increase in ER visits of youth athletes. All sports programs (including professional and collegiate) are getting more aggressive with treating concussions, and testing has improved in the last five years. Before that, good tests weren’t available so decisions were based on how the athlete felt. Today they have objective data they can follow to help get an athlete back in the game. The most important thing an athlete can do is to report all injuries to an athletic trainer or physician. This way the athletic trainer or physician can provide information on what symptoms to watch for. If it’s a concussion, the athlete must watch for headaches, dizziness, disorientation, and vomiting.
Young athletes tend to think they’re invincible and always want to play. Unfortunately, ER visits tell a different story. Athletes need to understand the seriousness of the injury. There’s more information available today to help parents and athletes understand a concussion and the appropriate treatment, which is mental and physical rest.
Baseline testing is another great tool that’s coming to the forefront of treating concussions. A couple different baseline testing tools, like Axon sports and Impact, are now available. These tools are used in professional sports, as well. The tests work by measuring baseline brain function when an athlete is healthy. If a baseline test is conducted, trainers, coaches, and athletes know what recovery must occur before they can participate again. National progression standards are followed.
Q. What’s the correct treatment after an injury? Heat or ice?
A. Use ice initially to help reduce the swelling. Some studies say to use heat after 24 hours, however, it depends on the injury. Some injuries, like a grade-two or grade-three sprain, need ice longer than 24 hours. A grade-two or grade-three sprain is a partial or fully torn injury with moderate to severe swelling that doesn’t go down after 24 hours. Many trainers use the R.I.C.E. principal: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Rest: It’s important for an athlete to stop using the injured body part. Pain is the body’s natural way of telling you to stop using the injured area.
Ice: After an injury occurs, swelling sets in. It’s important to apply ice to this area as soon as possible.
Compression: Wrap the ice with a bandage to help keep the ice against the injured area. Never wrap the ice so tightly that it cuts off circulation.
Elevation: Keep the injured area propped up at a level above your heart.
Q. As a parent, how do I know if my child has an overuse injury?
A. If an athlete has slight pain or is a little sore after practice, that’s normal. However, when the pain progresses and they have pain during and after practice, this is a sign of an overuse injury. The injury could be a soft tissue injury which is an injury to a tendon. It could also be an injury to bone, like a stress fracture. If so, the activity must be modified or eliminated to heal the injury.
For example, if the athlete has suffered a foot injury, he or she can do a biking program or any exercise that offloads that sore area. An athletic trainer or physical therapist should be involved in helping an athlete heal from an overuse injury. If inflammation and pain goes away after icing and then comes back, that’s a sign of some kind of weakness that needs attention. Some strengthening needs to take place to help the athlete completely heal from the injury, otherwise it’s going to turn into a nagging injury.
Q. How can an athlete prevent overuse injuries?
A. The athlete should start out slow with an activity and then progress in intensity. Most overuse injuries occur in track because track starts fast. If athletes aren’t training (cardio or strength training) six to eight weeks before the start of the season, they’re more likely to experience an overuse injury. Shoes are very important and can also help prevent overuse injuries.
Q. How do you encourage athletes after they’re injured and unable to participate?
A. Season-ending injuries are devastating to young athletes. They go through emotions like shock, anger, and depression. As an athletic trainer, it’s important to help them through all the different emotions, as well as helping them heal physically. It’s critical to keep them involved as much as possible, depending on the injury. If it’s a lower body injury, I’ll develop a program that works the upper body so the athlete can continue to train while the team is doing strength training and conditioning. It’s very hard for kids to go from full-contact participation to nothing at all. This is a shock to their systems. They need to feel like they’re still a part of the team.
A special thanks to Kyle for sharing his tips with us. Do you have any tips or information on sports-related injuries you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.