The team at Mayo Clinic comes together every day to put the needs of the patient first. Whether your child has an ACL injury or you’re looking for a knee specialist, our multidisciplinary team wants to keep you moving. Kelechi R. Okoroha, M.D., orthopedic surgeon for Mayo Clinic, answers questions about injury prevention, training, treatment, and seeking specialized care that best meets you and your child’s needs.
How do you determine what type of support your feet need when it comes to selecting a good shoe for your child?
OKOROHA: Selecting a good shoe for your child can be important in injury prevention. Make sure to get your child’s feet measured, and do not try to buy shoes too big as this can lead to trips/falls or other injuries. Always check the toes to make sure the shoe box has the appropriate width and depth. Depending on the alignment of your child’s feet, they may need insoles or orthotics. These inserts support various parts of the foot and provide additional cushioning, depending on if they have flat feet or high arched feet.
How do you encourage “healthy” competition in your child’s sports career, and what does “healthy competition” look like?
Children have a natural love for competition, which is healthy. It is OK to encourage healthy competition as long as the following tips are followed:
- Let kids learn from failure. It is OK to allow your child to fail, understand what led to their failure, and hopefully make the necessary changes to improve in the future.
- Don’t focus on winning. Winning can be fun, but not everyone can win. Instead, encourage your child to do their best and enjoy the experience.
- Don’t make your love conditional on their success. If you only encourage or cheer on your child when they win, this can send the wrong message and make it appear that your love is based on them winning. Try to cheer your child on, no matter the end result.
- Have fun. The most important thing when it comes to youth athletics should be having fun and enjoying the experience. Try to ensure that having fun is the number-one priority.
What is the difference between an injury and trauma, and how do you determine when it’s safe to return to normal activity?
Although trauma and injury have separate meanings, they can often be used interchangeably when referring to injuries faced by athletes. Usually, an athlete is safe to return to normal activity when they have no pain, full range of motion in the joint, and full strength.
What are the most common pediatric sports injuries, and how do you prevent them?
Two of the most common pediatric sports injuries are ankle sprains and knee tendinitis (jumper’s knee). These injuries can be prevented by proper stretching before activities and a thorough strength and stability program. Taping of the ankles or ankle bracing should be encouraged in cutting and jumping sports.
At what age is it healthy to begin a weightlifting regime?
Children may begin weightlifting as early as age 7 or 8. Strength training can become a valuable part of an overall fitness plan, if the child is mature enough to follow directions and able to practice proper technique and form.
How do you know when it is time to seek specialized care instead of your primary care?
If your child is experiencing significant pain or limitation during sporting activities, they should be evaluated by a specialist. In an acute injury without any instability of the injured joint, it is usually safe to allow a couple of days of rest or recovery to determine if the injury persists.
How do you prevent overuse in youth athletics while balancing a robust training regimen?
Overuse injuries often occur when youth athletes focus on a single sport year-round. To prevent youth overuse injuries, encourage your children to play multiple sports, and allow rest during the offseason. Also, ensure your child undergoes a pre-participation physical exam and has proper education and supervision while playing.
Does stretching and warmups before physical activity prevent injury in all types of athletics?
Stretching and warming up before athletic activity allows muscles to prepare appropriately for intense activity. An appropriate warmup has been shown to decrease the rates of injury in various athletic activities. While stretching and warming up cannot prevent all injuries, common injuries like muscle strains and ligament strains can be reduced.
What are some psychological issues to be aware of when it comes to athletic training and recovery?
After sustaining a major injury, an athlete may experience psychological issues, which may impair return to sport or optimal performance. Fear of reinjury or decreased performance can be common and may need treatment by a sports psychologist.
Mayo Clinic offers advanced Orthopedics and Sports Medicine services in Minneapolis and Rochester. Visit sportsmedicine.mayoclinic.org to learn more about our doctors and programs.