by Tom Jensen, PT/ATC
The fall sports season is wrapping up as post-season tournaments begin. But participants in athletics are not the only ones who suffer from sports-related injuries. Coaches, athletes, parents, and fans have additional pressure on them to continue to perform or support their teams so that they can go as far as possible into the playoffs.
First and foremost is laryngitis. Yelling encouragement to the athletes, a little friendly advice to the coaches (and an occasional comment to the officials) can put a lot of stress on the larynx (or voice box). The larynx is where air passes through causing sound to generate. Excessive stress from yelling can cause the larynx to become irritated and inflamed, giving you laryngitis. The area swells and allows less air to pass by and whispers are all that are heard.
Obviously, the best treatment is not to yell—but how can you attend an athletic event and not yell and scream? The second best choice is to yell more encouragement and less advice and criticism. Personally, I like to let officials know just how they are doing throughout the contest. A good supply of throat lozenges (hard candy, cough drops, etc.) will help a little bit. Rest and very little talking the following day will also aid recovery. Of course, it is nice to know that laryngitis is not a permanent condition, so go ahead and scream!
The next most common problem is probably sore soles of the feet from stomping on the bleachers, floors, etc. Excessive explosive force on the bottom (or the plantar aspect) of the foot can lead to stress fractures—actual broken bones or numerous types of soft tissue injuries.
Again, since prevention is very unlikely (and not much fun), here are some helpful hints:
1) Wear good shock-absorbing running shoes to dissipate the force.
2) Add some Sorbothane or Spenco insoles into your shoes to relieve additional stress.
3) Take your seat cushion and/or coat and put it under your feet before stomping.
No matter what, ice-soaks after every game will relieve the pain and get you ready for the next game.
The next problem is what has become to be known as Fan-Fanny syndrome (also known as Bleacher Buns). This is a condition where the gluteal area gradually becomes numb as the frequency and duration of sitting on hard bleachers increases. It usually starts with a little tingling in the distal tush and rapidly speeds to the entire area.
The best recommendations I have for this is as follows:
1) Stand up every time there is a time-out or with playing of the school song.
2) Make frequent trips to the snack bar. This will not only get circulation back, but it will also help pad the area if you visit too often during the playoffs.
3) A seat cushion is also a nice option. This is a multi-use item if you also tend to stomp your feet.
4) If all else fails, find a cooperative, understanding, and good-looking fan that will let you have his/her lap for refuge.
There are also cases of rotator cuff tendonitis in the shoulder joint during the post season. This occurs from fans and coaches shrugging their shoulders or throwing their arms up in the air saying, “What was that call for?” This maneuver places a lot of stress on the tiny rotator cuff, which gets pinched under the distal collarbone.
The treatment for this is simple—let the officials do their job and try not to second-guess them. However, it is more practical to not raise your arms quite as high when questioning their calls.
The list goes on and on as fan injuries become more common to some sports. No matter what the season, it is vital that good care is taken so fans and parents heal quickly. A rapid recovery is crucial so they can return for the next game.