Preventing Sports Injuries a Priority of NRHS Athletic Training Program
Originally published in the "North Reading Transcript," June 1, 2006
By Maureen G. Doherty
Throughout the various sport seasons, Harmeling Physical Therapy, 325 Main St., has continued to work directly with the student-athletes at North Reading High School.
NRHS athletes are welcome to call the clinic (978-276-0991) or stop by any time to have any injury or pain evaluated by a staff member free of charge. Students and parents may also have their questions answered regarding proper stretching and strengthening techniques to prevent pain, strains and recurring injuries.
NRHS Athletic Trainer Beth Vaughan of Harmeling Physical Therapy is available to student-athletes any time after school during the week. She also assists students who need to be taped or have their progress evaluated before all varsity sporting events. And she is on the sidelines at varsity home games as a "first responder" in acute situations.
Injury prevention through education remains a primary goal of Harmeling Physical Therapy through its growing relationship with NRHS student-athletes, coaches and parents over the past three years and nine sports seasons.
In an effort to raise awareness of potential avoidable injuries, Peter Harmeling, a North Reading resident, parent and youth coach, has also offered free musculoskeletal and orthopedic screenings to the students at clinics held at the school.
"One of our goals for this program is to try to prevent injuries by identifying factors that might predispose the athletes to injury, with the goal being to keep the athletes in competition all season," said Vaughan.
"Another goal is to educate the student-athlete about possible problem spots for injuries if they don't strengthen or stretch. For instance, having tight quads and weak stomach muscles could make an athlete prone to a back injury," she said.
A pre-screening questionnaire filled out by the students helped Harmeling, Vaughan and trainer Erica Sachez zone in on areas of concern to the students during one such clinic held this spring in the cafeteria.
For one runner, the complaint of a sore heel led to the discovery that Achilles tendinitis was being further aggravated by an ill-fitting shoe. Compounding the situation was an increase in miles being logged by the athlete during the transition between the indoor and outdoor seasons, and his attempt to run through the pain.
Ice therapy and a better method of stretching the calf prior to each run were among the recommendations offered to the student by Harmeling. Rather than simply stretching the calf by pressing up against a wall, the improved method has the athlete rest his forearms on a table for better leverage and deeper stretching.
As the season progressed, this athlete continued to improve upon his personal best marks while scoring valuable points for the team and remaining injury-free.
Regardless of the exterior appearance of a running shoe, they should be replaced after every 300 to 400 miles logged due to the wearing down of the shoe's shock absorption properties, Harmeling said.
Another typical injury seen by trainers and physical therapists in young athletes is "jumper's knee" which, as the name implies, generally affects those who jump a lot, such as basketball or volleyball players and high jumpers. Site-specific strengthening exercises are among the methods used to help an athlete avoid further, more serious injury to the knee or other frequent trouble spots such as shoulders, hips or back.
As another sports season comes to a close at NRHS, Harmeling Physical Therapy looks forward to assisting student-athletes in improving their performance on the field by helping them to remain pain-free and injury-free or getting them back into the action as soon as possible when an injury does occur.