Soldiering on not ideal

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Some work I've been doing has brought me into contact with youngsters in their mid-teens who have suffered significant injury, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

While some injuries are from vehicle accidents and falls, most are sporting injuries. This led me to a recent report by researchers at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Sports Performance Research Institute who surveyed football, netball and basketball players and coaches.

Some of the responses should give parents some cause for concern or, at the very least, reason to be alert as to what might be happening.

Of the 262 players surveyed, 87% reported hiding or playing down an injury so they could continue playing, while 102 of the 117 coaches and 205 players said they'd observed players playing on when they shouldn't have.

The reasons for this seemed to be a combination of team loyalty, a desire to win, not wanting to leave the field or court and little understanding of the seriousness of the injury and the long-term consequences.

As well, around half the participants had observed parents, coaches and other players putting pressure on an injured player to play on.

Lead author Dr Chris Whatman has said the major concern is that the long-term consequences of not acknowledging an injury would affect ongoing ability to play that or many other sports.

"A major risk factor for an injury in sport is a previous injury, so primary prevention in youth sport is crucial."

There is also a risk of quality-of-life issues if the injury leads to a chronic condition.

Another AUT study on youth sport also reflects on similar impacts on youngsters being forced into specialising in sport too early.

Physiotherapist Rob Knight believes that early structured and specialised sports training has meant less down time for youngsters and raises the possibilities of early burnout in a particular sport.

Physiotherapists are reporting that, as a result of this early specialisation, they're seeing injuries in children that, in the past, they wouldn't have seen until players were much older.

The possibilities of a career in professional sport and the growth of sporting academies with intensive training programmes in our schools are probably behind this.

Increasing competitiveness at younger and younger levelsand an emphasis on your school's or club's position on the league tables mean pressures are being applied and attitudes towards injury being developed that might not be in a youngster's best interests.

This calls for more appropriate attitudes in coaches and players towards injury. It also calls for recognition by parents of the current dangers and greater involvement in managing these situations, possibly despite teenage protests.


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