For high-school athletes, summer vacation means weeks of hanging out with friends, playing informal pick-up games and swimming. Many don’t think about the potential dangers that such activities can pose. 

“Most of the sports injuries I see in the summer come from accidents at home,” said Mark Taylor, MD, of Medical Associates of Southwest Virginia. “Often, high-school athletes play informal games, and that’s where we see the bulk of injuries. 

“It’s sad because these injuries often inhibit their season, especially football players, because of recovery times. It’s especially bad for incoming seniors because it can keep them from playing their last season the way they would like to.” 

Dr. Taylor, who sees athletes in his office and travels with the Powell Valley High School football team, says the most common summer injuries are sprained ankles and foot injuries. He also sees knee, back, elbow and minor facial injuries, and back injuries caused by unsupervised weightlifting are common.

“It’s important for athletes to find a qualified teacher, a coach or an older athlete who specializes in weightlifting,” Dr. Taylor said. “Try to find someone associated with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and spend time one-on-one in the weight room learning from them. Books and magazines can be helpful, but you really need someone there who can show you and make sure you are using proper technique.” 

Water safety is also important for high-school athletes, Dr. Taylor said. Knowing how to swim can be a lifesaver.

“There are always a few athletes who drown in the summer because they are too embarrassed to admit they can’t swim, so they jump in anyway,” he said. “We can prevent a lot of injuries and disasters by emphasizing the importance of learning how to swim, and that’s always one of the first questions I ask my student athletes.” 

Whatever activity high-school athletes engage in during summer vacation, moderation is the key, Dr. Taylor said.

 “Remember to use proper technique and not to be too aggressive in pick-up games,” he said.  “Don’t go overboard competing in informal sports.” 


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