It’s more than sticking your neck out for a play
By Joe Black | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Already this year, it seems as though the sports injury of the fall is a back or neck injury. I’ve seen way too many of these and the fall sports season is young.
Teenagers aren’t supposed to have back problems. That’s supposed to be for the middle-aged guy that tries to lift too much without using good body mechanics. Or the senior citizen that has simply abused their spine for too many years.
Oh, I see enough bad posture among younger folks that I sometimes wonder why they aren’t having more neck pain but then I do know that eventually they are going to have problems. Sitting at a computer (which a lot more folks do for a job these days) will definitely take a postural problem and make it a significant medical problem.
And those backpacks. I’ve ranted here more than once about the weight of the backpacks that our high school-aged kids are required to lug around every day. It’s obscene!
I weighed one of those backpacks, fully loaded, not too long ago. It was 45 pounds. And that one was carried by a 15-year-old girl that might weigh 105, soaking wet. That’s over 40 percent of her body weight on her back. Every day.
Something has got to be done about that one. Those teens will be adults with serious back problems.
But I’m also seeing athletic injuries to the spine that cannot be taken lightly. Although not seen with the fear and gravity that concussions are, back problems among teenage athletes need to be evaluated by a health care professional. For most teams, that starts with the team’s Athletic Trainer.
One category of back problems, known as spondylolisthesis, is not uncommon in football linemen. The mechanism of injury is often the repetitive nature of collisions with other large individuals, usually with the spine in extension. Over time, a structural change can take place in the low back that only rest and no football can fix.
That’s why offensive linemen with chronic low back pain should be seen by an orthopedic surgeon with X-rays done.
Protective equipment has gotten much better in the past few years, from better shoulder pads to fitted and padded undergarments that dissipate the force of a direct blow to the trunk and shoulders.
But still, a lot of times an injury to the back in football is from a direct blow, such as a receiver going up for a pass and being hit from behind. Those usually aren’t serious and require only time to be resolved. Still, the kidneys are vulnerable and a potential kidney injury is something that cannot be ignored.
That’s why a medical evaluation is important. If you remember one thing from today’s column remember that if there is any blood at all in the urine (pink to red urine), then you need to see a doctor immediately.
As for those backpacks: Parents, get involved. Make sure that you help your teenager keep a proper fit with their backpack. It should hit higher up the back than most of what I too often see, with the straps shortened and the bag fitting snugly against the back, not drooping down low.
Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Write to him at (email@example.com)