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Ensuring Safety in Youth Football Starts with Awareness Michael Ellerbusch, MD, Non-surgical Sports Medicine – Southlake Orthopaedics

Football is a wonderful sport that teaches children about teamwork, perseverance, and personal accountability. There can be injuries with any contact sports on the football field.  Through education and proper preparation, the risk of injury can be significantly reduced.

Thankfully, the President of Jefferson Shelby Youth Football League, Scott Verner, cares deeply for the safety of the youth in his league and has taken steps to protect their physical health so that kids can get out there and enjoy their favorite sport while doing it safely. One of the measures Mr. Verner has taken to ensure the players in the Jefferson Shelby Youth Football League stay healthy is by partnering with Southlake Orthopaedics to ensure parents, players, and coaches have the necessary knowledge and resources to keep the sport safe. Southlake Orthopaedics’ sports medicine physician, Dr. Michael Ellerbusch, shares that last year, the highest number of injuries were soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and contusions, but there are many other injuries that parents should be aware of if their child is playing football. The key for parents is to communicate with their child and seek medical assistance if the need arises.

“Football is a collision sport, so there are going to be injuries associated with this, and we really see injuries from top to bottom. It starts at the top with concussions, and that is something that has had a lot of press lately because it is something that is being more recognized from where it was 15 or 20 years ago. That’s an important one that parents should keep an eye out for so that it can be treated quickly and properly.” Dr. Ellerbusch explains. “If a concussion is suspected, the child needs to immediately stop the activity they are doing and seek care promptly. We have a quick access line so that parents can  call and get their child into our clinic to be seen as soon as possible if a concussion is suspected.”

He continues, “Then running down the body, we do get some spine injuries, like neck and lower back injuries, but fortunately, most of our youth football injuries result from soft tissue injuries like sprains and contusions like bruises. Parents should also be aware that there are injuries that can affect the joints, including shoulders, elbows, hands, and wrists.”

Dr. Ellerbusch goes on to say that the practice did see some wrist and forearm fractures last year, but that, fortunately, most fractures of this nature can be treated non-surgically with cast protection, although some may need surgical intervention.

“When you work your way down the body to the leg, you think about the knees and the ankles, those areas get mostly damaged from ligament injuries at the knees or ankle sprains, and sometimes, although rarely at this age, we see injuries like ACL injuries.”

Dr. Ellerbusch says that although injuries do occur from such a high-contact sport, parents can help their children avoid serious health issues by ensuring that their child goes into each game prepared. One of the big things you can do as a parent is keep your child adequately hydrated and be heat acclimated.

“It is important for kids to hydrate every day, but especially before and during practices and games. Dehydration issues can cause very serious medical conditions including heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, especially in the way these temperatures have been lately,” Dr. Ellerbusch stresses. “There are certain things players and parents can watch for to see if dehydration is occurring, including significant weight loss after practice, and also keeping a close eye on urine color. The other thing parents can help their child do is get adapted to the heat. We want these kids to get out early and get used to the hot temperatures here in the South so that they aren’t just thrown into practice with that heavy equipment on and then suffer heat-related illnesses from that as well.”

Equipment should also be taken into account when discussing injury prevention, according to Dr. Ellerbusch. “Proper-fitting equipment is really important when it comes to injury prevention as well. If something isn’t fitting correctly, make sure that is adjusted before the child uses it, as ill-fitting equipment can actually contribute to injuries.”

Dr. Ellerbusch states that the best time to prevent injury is in the preseason before kids start so that they are ready for the season, temperature acclimated, strengthened up, well-hydrated, adequately fitted in their equipment, and educated on injuries before they occur.

Although many injuries in youth football are minor, Dr. Ellerbusch stresses that it’s important to take all injuries in youth football seriously. “We need to be sensitive about injuries in youth football. I know it is common for people to say just ‘tough it out’, but these kids have growth plates, and if they have an injury, it can affect their growth, which can lead to long-term complications for them into adulthood. So, we need to be a little more sensitive to these injuries than we would be to an adult, especially since it is harder for children to express what is going on with their bodies. Most importantly, we need parents to keep a close watch on their children for signs of concussions. If any neurological symptoms are seen following an injury, the sooner they can pull the child out of the activity they are currently participating in and in to be seen and evaluated, the better their outcome will be.”

If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment with Dr. Ellerbusch or any of the experienced team at Southlake Orthopaedics, please click here today.


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