With summer upon us, millions of Canadian youth are participating in sport activities every day. Sport and recreation is a great way for youth to get exercise, socialize, develop teamwork skills and improve mental and physical health. Unfortunately, the benefits of sport also come with the risk of injury. In fact, one in three youth aged 11-18 years will sustain a sport-related injury that requires medical attention each year, with knee and ankle injuries being the most common. Research has shown that these youth sport injuries, if not treated properly, can lead to osteoarthritis (OA) within 15 years, specifically a form known as post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Youth sport injury can also lead to obesity later in life, which happens to be another major risk factor for OA. This means that youth with 1 major risk factor for OA (joint injury) are in danger of acquiring a second risk factor for the disease (obesity).
Osteoarthritis is caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints and affects more than 5 million Canadians nation-wide; the disease can cause moderate to severe pain, disability and even require surgery. Osteoarthritis symptoms generally appear 10-15 years after a joint injury, and by this time the disease is very difficult to treat. Unlike inflammatory arthritis, there are no medications to slow the disease process of osteoarthritis, so preventative measures are of even greater importance. The upside? We can ensure our youth take proper precautions to avoid injury and hugely minimize their risk of developing OA.
What can a coach or parent do to help?