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Risk Factors of Sports
Injuries in School

Tajuk: Faktor
Kemalangan Semasa Melaksanakan Aktiviti Sukan di Sekolah


            Youth participation in sports has
increased tremendously in most schools nowadays. Injuries in sports are
unpredictable. With so many young athletes playing sports, it’s no surprise
that injuries are so common. An injury to high school athletes can be a
significant disappointment for the teen, the family and the coaches. Any
student who decides to take up sports must by now realizes that they are prone
to sport injuries to any part of the body. Our body is created to cope with
stress exerted on it but when it is stressed past its limits, that is also when
injuries occurs. These injuries can be caused by a range of factors which can
be grouped into two types: extrinsic or intrinsic.


            An extrinsic risk factor affects
externally on the human body. This factor can cause either minor or severe injury
to sports athletes although it is out of the human power to control. Extrinsic
factors are the variables that are unable to control to prevent oneself from
getting hurt which includes training equipment, environment, clothing and
footwear, other sports players (violent play), inappropriate coaching and
instructions, improper training techniques, etc.


            The first extrinsic factor is poor
coaching and instructions. Most skills attained and learned by the young
athletes are usually dictated by a coach or a trainer. Coaching is a major key
in sports as instructors manage athletes’ training sessions. If trainings are
not held appropriately and incorrect techniques are not corrected, this may
cause players to perform badly in sports. As a result, they could foster bad
habits that will cause injury to themselves or other players. Apart from that,
what important is that a coach must have good communications skill. Good
communication skill plays a role in relaying the correct message and
instructions to the athletes relating to proper techniques. If a coach does not
have this skill, he might not know how to properly explain to the player how to
achieve and perform the technique accurately. Consequently, athletes are often
scolded and blamed for not following what has been instructed by the coach and
for this reason, it hampers down the athletes’ motivation and later on, they
will perform badly in their matches. Therefore, it is vital to pick a credible
and responsible person to become the coach as to protect the young athletes
from harm and injury. 


            The second extrinsic factor is
equipment. Many physical sports require equipment either to play or to protect
players from getting hurt.  Equipment for
a sport activity may range from clothing to special protective suits or
apparatus. However, minor injuries may happen even though the equipment are not
faulty. Blisters are normal, particularly when players are using new shoes or
new racquets. Also, players who have little knowledge on how to use a sports
equipment are prone to get injuries compared to players who are prepared with
skills and knowledge. Hence, players need to know the basic skills of managing
the equipment before they are allowed to play in order to prevent injuries.
Most importantly is that before participating in any sports, equipment should
always be checked. For example, in a football game, the goal posts must be
properly checked by the referee to determine whether they are safe and properly
fixed to be used. If the goal posts were not checked before a game, they could
tumble down and fall on the goalkeeper or any of the players who are nearby at
the time, causing a serious damage that could have been avoided. Another
unavoidable injury example is collisions with equipment. For instance, players run
into a goal post, got hit by a hockey stick or injured by football shoes. These
may result to injuries like bruises and cuts or more severe injuries such as
dislocations, fractures and concussion. An example of a real life case in
Singapore, where a 12-year-old boy had reached for a crossbar of the goalpost
to do a pull-up backwards, afterwards the structure then fell over and hit his
head resulting in his death. Thus, players and coaches must be aware of the
safety precautions they need to follow and check before playing sports so that
the extrinsic factor of sports injury can be prevented.


            Not wearing the suitable clothing
and footwear is also an obvious factor of exposing players to the risk of injuries.
Before commencing any physical activity, athletes must be well-prepared like
wearing the suitable equipment, proper clothing and footwear that are crucial
in helping them to avoid injuries. For example, players in a football game have
to wear football boots as they will play on an AstroTurf pitch and it is suitable
to wear trainers if athletes are running for longer miles. Athletes must not use
any random sport shoes because sports shoes are designed differently for distinctive
uses. Consequently, if players do not use the suitable shoes as they play, they
will experience minor injury like falling over or spraining an ankle due to the
lack of grip by using the wrong type of shoes. Wearing the wrong type of
footwear may also affect their performance on the pitch. For instance, players
may misplace a pass in a game of football or tackle wrongly in a game of rugby.
This is all caused due to wearing the wrong type of footwear. Poor performances
on the pitch can lead to a loss of confidence which may lead to future
injuries. Hence, players as well as teachers or the coach should take note of the
appropriate clothing and footwear that the athletes’ should wear during any
physical activities and sports.


            One of the unavoidable risk factors
of injuries that players face during any sports game is the environmental
factor. The environment during sports are held can have a big impact on the
probability of the players obtaining an injury. The environment includes the
area that the players play, the environmental temperature, the surface, lighting,
etc. There are cases like during training, the weather would be sunny and
completely fine or the pitch and field being hard and smooth but when it comes
to the day of the match it suddenly rains turning the field to be extremely wet
and slippery which exposes to all kinds injuries and hinders the players’
performances. Following that, the environmental temperature also increases the
risk of injury whereby the temperature being too cold or too hot, both are bad
for the players which can cause them to suffer hyperthermia or dehydration. This
applies the same for lighting as players need an adequate amount of lighting to
play indoors. Playing in a dim lit room will cause players unable to see and
predict their movements as they play and this without a doubt exposes them to
injuries like getting knocked down by another player. Environmental factor is
an unavoidable risk factor of injury because it is beyond the players’ ability
to control. For example, in a real life situation, there is a case where a
21-year-old Peruvian soccer player died on the pitch because he was stricken by
lightning and this showed that the injuries occurred are caused by a factor
that is beyond a human’s power to control. Hence, the likelihood of getting
injured is unpredictable, and players have to only brace themselves in order to
be safe from this extrinsic factor. However, teachers can take precautionary
steps by inspecting the weather forecast before commencing with any outdoor
sports activities to avoid any harm caused by environmental factor.


            Accidents is another extrinsic risk
factor of injury that players could not avoid if it transpires. Although there
are safety precautions, accidents will still occur. Some activities may convey greater
risk of injury compared to others. For example, in ice skating, there will
always be a possibility of tripping or falling down or one performer knocking
and toppling down on another. Such accidents may be infrequent if the players
are pros, however preparation is still an important aspect to reduce the risk
of injury. Another accidental reason is caused by another player’s negligence. Some
sports are more vulnerable towards attaining injuries because the rules of the
sports allow physical contacts. These factors are then divided into two which
are contact sports and non-contact sports. Contact sports mean injuries that
frequently befall through tackling or being tackled by another player like a violent
play of rugby where tackling is allowed in the game. Meanwhile, non-contact
sports mean injuries that can occur through foul tackles or accidental
collisions. This usually happens in football or hockey games where dangerous
tackles committed are considered fouls determined by the referee.  Each sports have their own level of risk
injuries. Therefore, players need to be aware of the risks of each sports hold
in order to match to their level and whether they wish to participate in an
activity with a higher chance of getting an accident. 


            Intrinsic risk factors mean internal
factors usually caused by the individual and not by outside factors. They are
factors which are within the athletes’ bodies that includes all the physical aspects
of the body that can cause injury. Individuals have control towards these
factors and are able to change them if the risk factors are causing injury to
them. The internal factors include poor posture, poor physical preparation, overtraining,
flexibility, level of fitness, nutrition, previous injuries, sleep, overuse
injuries, etc.


            The first intrinsic risk factor of
injury in sports is the player’s level of fitness. Athlete’s fitness is one of
the most important aspect to evaluate before taking up any sports because only the
athletes themselves know their own limits and when to stop doing physical
activities if it goes beyond their limit. If an athlete is physically fit and
is able to preserve the level of speed and aerobic tenacity, this will in turn
improve the athlete’s whole development to become faster, more effective and
also well-controlled reducing the risk of injury towards the athlete. However,
if the athlete practices at an excessive rate then the fitness level suddenly
drops and the athlete still remains practicing, this may result to the danger
of pulling muscles or collapsing because of the high intensity that is beyond their
limit. Moreover, injuries are more prone to athletes who have lower fitness
level as they become fatigue quicker than players with higher level of fitness.
As the players become tired very quickly, they will commit more mistakes that
may lead to injuries during their matches. Hence, less fit athletes are more
exposed to injuries compared to more fit athletes. Following that, all young
athletes must remember to self-asses themselves while they participate in any
types sports so they are able to stop and prevent injuries from occurring.


            Another intrinsic factor that
exposes the players to injuries is the poor preparation made before undertaking
a physical activity or sports. Warm-ups are one of the most important elements
that is commonly neglected by most individuals. Warm-ups sessions are done
prior to doing the physical activity in order to avoid injuries from happening.
Warm ups usually consist of light cardiovascular exercises combined with
multiple stretches just to get the players motivated and prepared to do
physical activities. Additionally, cool downs are also done which serves the
same function as warm ups that are to prevent soreness and reduce tensions,
only that they are done shortly after exercises or trainings have ceased. Warm
ups take about 20 minutes to half an hour to do which allows plenty of time for
the body to get ready for the physical activities as well as prepare them
mentally. Warm ups are especially important before doing sports to prevent
injury throughout training or matches as it keeps muscles warm and prevents
acute injuries such as hamstring strains and will stave off overuse injuries by
allowing the body to prepare firmly and safely. For example, in a game of
cricket, it is advisable to stretch throughout the game as it avoid muscles
from getting sore and allow them to function efficiently. Warming up also
increases one’s overall flexibility. 
Warm up activities such as static stretching, dynamic stretching, PNF
stretching will increase the flexibility of the muscles which in turn will
reduce the probability of injuries and improve their performance as well. Therefore,
physical preparation is an important aspect to be assessed and done before
participating in physical activities to prevent injuries.


            Apart from that, an intrinsic factor
of sports injury in school also includes overuse injuries. An overuse injury is
impairment to a bone, muscle, ligament or tendon caused by repetitive stress
without allowing healing time for the body. Overuse injuries are accountable
for nearly half of the sports injuries. Youth are at an alarming rate for
overuse injuries because of their growing bones being less resilient to stress.
Also, young athletes are usually oblivious of certain symptoms that are signs
of overuse. For instance, worsening shoulder pain in swimmers. The most common
location of injuries for most athletes are shin injuries and knee injuries. Other
common examples of overuse injuries are ankle sprains, shoulder dislocations,
wrist fractures, and hamstring muscle strains. Training errors are usual cause
of overuse injuries. This happens when athletes accelerate the intensity,
duration or frequency of exercises and training that are stressing and
overusing their capabilities. Overuse injuries also link to old injuries or
incompletely rehabilitated injuries that frequently occurs in players who
return to doing sports or physical activities and due to that they will want to
try to return back to their old physical state that pushes them harder in order
to achieve back the same level of physique they had before the previous injury.
In turn, this predispose them to at higher risk of injuries.  Most overuse injuries can be avoided with correct
training and good judgment and also, parents, teachers or coaches are also
responsible to monitor the young athletes in their physical activities
participation so they will not experience any overuse injuries that will harm their
overall development.


            In addition, athletes generally
disregard the negative effects that overtraining can act to them. Overtraining
or burnout is described as a result of chronic stress that causes most young
athletes to stop participating in any previously enjoyable physical activity, and
also withdraw themselves from sports that they are unable to meet the
psychological demands. Burnout often happens when young athletes are put under
high expectations. They are demanded to train at a high frequency and failing
to do so results in low self-esteem, increased anxiety and excessive athletic
stress which leads to physical injury and eventually, a loss of interest towards
sports. This can be seen a lot in professional football where young uprising
talents are put under high expectations to succeed. This happens when they
perform above their level at a young age. Therefore, they are then told to
train excessively which will cause burnout. Young athletes with burnouts have a
higher of risks of getting injuries that may affect their career as athletes. Other
factors to burnouts are major changes to training regimes. This can present new
challenges for the body to adapt. As an example, teen athletes being given new training
routines without having time to adapt can increase the risk of injuries to the
body. The signs and symptoms that overtraining can do to young adolescents are agonizing
as it will interfere with their everyday life. The symptoms include, excessive
of weight loss, fatigue, slower recovery, decreased immune system, inability to
complete workouts, decreased strength, insomnia, etc. Burnouts also affect
these teen athletes emotionally too such as loss of appetite and enthusiasm,
depression and irritability. These symptoms overall will affect them as it causes
them to permanently quit doing physical activities as well as sports. Hence,
parents and coaches should observe these young athletes’ overall health and
development in sports to be aware of these symptoms.


            Many youths are now into sports at
an early age because it is a platform to make friends, develop skills, and burn
off excess energy.  Youth sports should
be a healthy outlet for kids, not become a hypercompetitive environment that
puts them under pressure and a risk of harm and injuries. Both of the extrinsic
and intrinsic factors mentioned above are risk factors that put young athletes
to be exposed to possible injuries. All these factors contribute to the youth
sports injury epidemic. Therefore, it is highly important to take all these
factors to consideration before any sports commence to prevent injuries and
short or long-term consequences for the young athletes. Although it is
impossible to avoid injuries at all cost due to unpredictable nature of sports
and physical activities, it is achievable to prepare precautionary steps in order
to reduce the prospect of encountering injuries.  Most importantly, parents, teachers and
coaches must also take the responsibility to be equipped with the sports injury
prevention tips and tools to make sure safety is ensured and become the utmost



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