Playing Through Pain

Given any weekend, starting at 12U and above, you can visit a local tournament and see the fields polka dotted with girls wearing color KT tape, knee and ankle supports, and icing their arms and backs, elevating their feet, and popping anti-inflammatory pills between games. Sure softball can be a rough sport, but for otherwise healthy and physically fit young girls – the softball field should not look like an outdoor rehabilitation center.

And, on a weekly basis we get tons of prayer requests from parents whose daughters are undergoing orthopedic surgeries that run the gamut from growth plate injuries, to reconstruction on the knees, to dislocated ribs and back injuries. The girls, facing months of down time from playing the sport they love.

Questions we typically receive. “How can my daughter get back on the field faster?” “My daughter wants to play despite xyz injury, but doctor says no – what should we do?” “My daughter has been complaining of pain in the shoulder/arm/forearm/knees etc. for several months, but we are in the middle of a season and she does not want to miss a game.” “Has anyone else out there had a daughter with xxxx injury, and if so – how did you expedite healing time, and how long was it before she played again?” “My daughter has a concussion, and has not been released to play but the team really needs her this weekend, what should we do?”

We can fill this post with facts, and information from leading doctors in the field of pediatrics. We could cite hundreds upon thousands of articles about OVERUSE injuries in youth sports being on the rise. But the thing is, even without all these professional opinions and million dollar studies – there is one deciding factor that should surpass all others.

Common sense. 

We are pushing these girls too hard. A 10 or 12 or 14 year old girl complaining of injuries that are so obviously due to overuse especially as softball is becoming a year round sport, require one thing and one thing only. Rest! And for the record, Watching an online video about how to apply KT tape to a pulled tricep muscle doesn’t replace a doctors care. 

These girls are still growing. Their bones and joints and muscles and hormones and brains are in a constant state of growth. And if they are experiencing pain, it means that something is amiss. Something is wrong. And no amounts of Advil will fix the problem. Rest fixes the problem.

Playing through the pain, and pushing through the injury and rushing the healing time will only lead to more problems in the future as they become adults. If a doctor says to rest, or sit out a few games, then as parents – we have to make the ultimate decision that their health and well-being is more important than a softball game. And not resting, not listening to the body (especially when kids have a much higher pain tolerance than adults which means that their feeling pain means something is wrong) sets them up for career ending injuries, and problems in their adult life.

It is recommended that girls take a break of at lest 6-9 weeks from all repetitive motions that coincide with their sport. This doesn’t mean that you cant work on agilities, or speed, or strength training  or cardio health during these times. But leave the balls and bats at home. Have them engage in another sport – or none at all. Let them grow, and heal and take a break so that their bodies don’t become permanently damaged.

And by all means – if your daughter plays a grueling schedule and is afforded a weekend off, let her have it off rather than send her out to another team as a pick up player.

Listen, we hate to see any player injured and miss out on a season, or a few games. But what we hate even more is to see so many young girls undergoing surgeries, and not being able to finish out playing during their youth, because they didn’t listen to their bodies or their doctors, were pushed too hard by coaches, or were encouraged to suck it up – and ‘played through the pain’ so to speak.

On a side note, if coaches are the ones pushing the kids or making them feel bad because they can’t play due to an injury on the field, OR are threatening to replace a hurt player – then they need to remember that they are the ones carrying team insurance for the team, which believe it or not, directs some of the responsibility onto the coaches. Furthermore, a coach who truly cares about his players DOES not want her compromising her health for one game or tournament.

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Seriously. Let’s get a grip here. This is softball. These girls have MANY years ahead of them. Playing while injured is simply not worth it, and our perspective as adults MUST change. 

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