Friday nights during fall, many hospital emergency departments across the nation are visited by high school football players. In fact, over one million males in the United States visited emergency rooms for injuries related to football between 2001 and 2005. While concussions and traumatic brain injuries have recently gotten focused on by the media lately, lower back pain is another common injury of young football players that parents and coaches should be aware of. According to High School Football Daily, lower back pain occurs in as many as 15% of young athletes. Here's what every parent and coach should tell their high school football player.
Strengthen & Condition Year Round
It's important to not wait until football season or just before football season to start strengthening and conditioning, especially the core. The body's core is the group of internal abdominal muscles that help keep the spine protected, as well as the pelvis, hips, and abdomen. A strong core can give an athlete more stability on the field, which is essential in contact sports like football. Players should strengthen their core year-round to help prevent injuries, especially during growth spurts.
It's amazing how fast teenage boys can grow, especially from one football season to the next. Within a seemingly short period of time a squeaky-voiced prepubescent teen can grow into a husky-voiced man-child. While hormones rage and bones quickly grow, ligaments, muscles, and hip flexors may need a bit of extra help in the growth department with regular strengthening and conditioning year round.
Never Play through Pain
Even through grueling practices and brutal games, most high school football players are deeply committed to playing under the bright Friday night lights. Sometimes, this deep commitment to the game, their team, and their coaches makes them try to ignore pain. It's important to teach your football player to never ignore pain, especially back pain. Playing football with untreated back pain can easily lead to spinal cord injuries, which could result in paralysis or—worse—death.
Instead of playing through pain, football players should be treated and sit on the sidelines until they are no longer symptomatic, free of pain, intact neurologically, have returned to full strength, and have a full range of motion of the entire spine. Treatment can consist of medication, physical therapy, surgery, and non-surgical treatments such as chiropractic care and acupuncture. Players should not be allowed to return to participation in practice and games until their spinal care orthopedist gives them permission to do so.