What Happens If You Keep Playing Sports When You're Injured?
What if you keep playing when you have a sports injury? What are the effects? – Ryan*
When it comes to sports injuries, the old days of "just suck it up" or "play through
the pain" are over. Doctors, trainers, and most coaches now know that playing through
a sports injury can cause damage that keeps you on the bench longer. Playing through
an injury may even end your sports career entirely.
Continuing to play if you have an injury can make that injury worse. A small
stress fracture that might have healed quickly can grow into a more serious, more
painful fracture that will take longer to heal. Returning to play too soon after a
increases your risk of serious brain injury.
But, in addition to worsening an existing injury, playing when you're already
injured means youalso can get hurt someplace else. That's
because you may be playing in a way that's not natural for your body — it protects
the injured area but puts other areas at risk.
So what should athletes do?
First, stop playing as soon as you notice an injury and talk to your coach
or doctor. Then keep resting until you are fully healed and your doctor gives
the go ahead (even if you feel sort of OK and there's a big game coming up, don't
play unless your doctor says you can).
Second, condition your body. Sports medicine experts recommend
training and conditioning as a way to prevent injuries from happening in
the first place. For an evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses, talk to your
coach or trainer, or visit a sports medicine center. Everyone has different strengths
and weaknesses, and some of them are things you might not be aware of or expect.
A good athletic trainer or coach can evaluate you and then give you workouts and
conditioning exercises that are targeted to your individual needs. These help you
build up the weaker areas of your body so there's less risk of overall injury.
Sports medicine centers in children's hospitals are a good bet. Trainers and therapists
who work with young athletes know more about developing bodies and the kinds of injuries
teens can get than trainers who work with adults. If you already have an injury, these
experts can give you conditioning exercises targeted to your body so that it both
heals and grows stronger.