Assessing young athlete injuries − When to see a specialist?

Written by Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD. on Tuesday, 11 June 2019. Posted in Newsletters, Sporting Injuries, Chiropractic

 Assessing young athlete injuries − When to see a specialist?


This month’s newsletter article was stimulated by a phone call I received this morning in regards to a young footballer who suffered a head injury playing on the weekend. We were glad to hear that the young boy was taken to hospital and did have a brain scan to eliminate any significant bleeds or anything that was pathologically present immediately following the injury. The after management is the point that is concerning me somewhat more.

A recent sports medicine Australia conference on paediatric injuries shows that there has been a massive increase in the number of major injuries suffered by teenage athletes. Particularly head injuries and ACL ruptures have been increasing almost exponentially. Across the board injuries have also increased and this has thought to be as a result of increased training loads and competition loads that are above and beyond what a growing body can tolerate.

The growing body needs rest and recuperation purely to grow, not even considering the demands of high level youth sport. The concern at the conference was in regards to misdiagnose or inappropriate assessment of youth injuries with the assumption that the injury would not be pathological. In particular relevance were head injuries, and the requirement in the sport medicine guidelines is that a head injury requires three weeks off work. This has been unfortunately somewhat ignored or not understood by some members of the community.

Often a GP or an A and E specialist with no specific training in head injuries will give the youth a return to sport because there was no apparent pathology on brain scan. This is purely not the case and the guidelines currently state that for a significant injury, that a minimum of 19 days off competition and intense training should be observed. The broader question for us is about appropriate assessment and this is the nature of my article. If you have an injury of your young athlete or child has an injury, it is appropriate to have them assessed by a relevant professional. This often means someone who has extensive experience in testing orthopaedic musculoskeletal conditions in the case of musculoskeletal injuries.

So often we see people show up here after a number of visits to their GP where they have a significant injury that has been missed. This is not to knock their GP, but it is not necessarily their area of expertise. Some GP’s are excellent, some don’t focus on this area very much at all. It would be the same as us in the musculoskeletal arena diagnosing ear issues, and visceral issues for which we are not adequately trained.

So my take home message is if you have an injury, get it assessed by a relevant professional and ensure you get the best possible outcome, rather than just hoping its nothing severe and going forward and creating more issues down the track.

About the Author

Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD.

Don Williams BSc, MChiro, ICSSD.

Don Williams (Chiropractor) is an internationally recognised expert in rehabilitation and sports injury management. His career started out in the late 80s with a move toward professional sport, namely triathlon. His career was cut short by a motor vehicle accident which after misdiagnosis and mismangement saw him requiring extensive spinal surgery and rehabilitation. This was the inspiration and desire to develop excellence in the diangosis and management of musculoskeletal disorders.

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