For students, being involved in sports is certainly a healthy option, and one that can provide a multitude of social and physical benefits. However, with this involvement comes the risk of injury. At any given time, an injury can happen, causing an athlete to get benched. And as with any athlete, the primary goal is to get back out on the court or field and be pain-free as soon as possible.
There are many treatments for injuries depending upon the severity.
Sometimes the treatment regimen will involve some form of prescription opioid for dealing with the pain—this certainly has been shown to help certain injuries when used properly. The key here is using the medication properly under a physician’s guidance.
While proper use is key, it’s not always the case. As we’ve all seen in the news, people can develop a physical and psychological addiction to these substances, leading to more frequent use or causing the user to turn to other, stronger (sometimes illegal) substances, like heroin. The heroin epidemic has become a major problem in the world, and especially in our region.
Here at Churchville-Chili, we try to provide some background information to students in high school health classes. We talk about opioids as part of our unit on drugs and substance abuse. It is included as a category of drugs, and we discuss how they are used to relieve pain.
We also discuss how people sometimes use them incorrectly or without prescriptions. Class lessons center on how opioids affect the brain and the consequences of use and abuse, as well as the safe ways of using them when prescribed. It is a fairly small part of our curriculum, but an important part. Often students choose this topic for a research project at the end of the unit.
Coaches and parents should also make sure they are educated on the topic of opioid use and abuse. You can also help them deal with injuries by following some vital steps.
- Never push an athlete to return too quickly. Jumping back in to sports too quickly can lead to re-injury or can worsen an injury that has yet to heal. It can also cause additional injuries. And pain from injury can cause an athlete to overuse pain medications.
- Ensure injured athletes follow protocols set forth by medical professionals. Don’t exceed the dosage prescribed by your doctor, and only continue to take medication if your doctors gives the go-ahead.
- If an athlete is prescribed opioids, keep a close eye on his behavior in the weeks and months that follow. Addiction often has some clear warning signs such as irritability, unusual behavior patterns, extreme changes in energy levels and memory issues.
- If there is any suspicion of opioid overuse, seek medical attention immediately. The sooner it is noticed, the better the chance it can be corrected.