Reducing the Risk of Injury in Kids Returning to Sport Post COVD-19

Over the past few weeks as coronavirus restrictions have started to ease and school and club sports have been able to resume, we’ve seen an unusually high volume of children with injuries coming into our clinic. I must admit, I’m not too surprised by this finding - in fact, I saw it coming!

With any large changes in exercise routine, the chance of injury increases. The human body is pretty amazing, in that, bones and tendons will increase in strength as exercise loads increase. We also now know that bones and tendons will decrease in strength with reduced exercise loads, for longer than three weeks.

So what did this mean for young, active children with COVID-19 upsetting our routines?

Here are two different scenarios:
  1. Active kids changed the type of exercise they were doing. For example, they went from playing sport to running around the block and exercising at home. They were doing the same overall amount of exercise but their loads shifted, creating new, increased stresses throughout bones and tendons, making them prone to injury.
  2. Some kids switched exercise for X-Box during COVID and had a prolonged reduction in exercise load, causing their bones and tendons to weaken. With sport suddenly resuming, there was a massive increase in load on the bones and tendons, increasing the chance of injury.
So, what’s the big deal with changing loads or resuming sport quickly after inactivity? The issue is, the body doesn’t like big surprises!
Stopping impact sports for three weeks or longer is a big surprise. Swapping from walking to jogging or big increases in running based sports is a big surprise. An increase in duration and frequency of exercise, or switching from low impact sports such as swimming and riding to running, is a big surprise.

Knowing this, how do can we reduce the risk of injury with kids returning to sport after COVID?

Some tips for resuming sport include:
  1. Make sure the stress through your child’s body is optimised with correct shoe selection. Some children required updates to their shoes and orthotics. We can help with this.
  2. Ensure your children follow a structured training plan (with rest days), if they are resuming cross country or other running based sports. We work alongside coaches who can help with this.
  3. To increase bone and tendon strength as fast as possible, diet and sleep are important. Ensure your children are getting enough sleep at night and are being nourished with a balanced diet. We can recommend sports dieticians who can help with this.
So remember, the body likes small surprises, not big surprises! Return to exercise gradually. Nourish your child’s body with good food and plenty of sleep. Lastly, ensure they have properly fitted shoes, and their body is moving as efficiently as possible. Doing these things will give your kids the best chance at minimising injury when returning to sport post COVID-19, or after any period of rest or inactivity.

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