Wrestling (Care of the Young Athlete)

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Wrestling is the oldest known sport, dating back
to prehistoric times. Today it’s the fourth most common sport in which
athletes from different schools compete against each other. There are more than
50 kinds of wrestling. The most common types include folkstyle, freestyle,
Greco-Roman, sumo, and professional.

As in many sports, the risk of injury increases with
age due to the style of play, contact forces, and size of athletes. However, the
risk of injuries can be reduced.

The following is information from the American
Academy of Pediatrics about how to prevent wrestling injuries. Also included is
an overview of common injuries.

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Sports physical exam.
    Athletes should have a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE) to
    make sure they are ready to safely begin the sport. The best time for a
    PPE is about 4 to 6 weeks before the beginning of the season. Athletes
    also should see their doctors for routine well-child checkups.

  • Fitness. Athletes should
    maintain a good fitness level during the season and off-season.
    Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and
    sport-specific conditioning. Also important are proper warm-up and
    cool-down exercises.

  • Technique. Athletes should
    learn and practice safe techniques for performing the skills that are
    integral to their sport. Athletes should work with coaches and athletic
    trainers on achieving proper technique.

  • Equipment. Wrestlers should
    wear headgear with ear protectors. Mats should be cleaned daily with
    antibacterial cleaner.

Healthy weight loss

Excessive or improper weight
can result in various health problems, including delayed
physical growth, eating disorders, depression, increased risk of infectious
disease, and heat illness. Wrestlers may also have less strength, slower
reaction time, and less endurance; school performance may be affected too.
Extreme exercise or rapid weight loss can contribute to heat stroke, kidney
failure, or death.

Junior high athletes are still growing, and most
should not lose weight to participate in wrestling. High school and college
wrestlers may wish to lose weight to participate at their minimal weight.

When losing weight, athletes should not lose
more than 1.5% of their body weight each week. If they lose that amount,
they will mostly lose fat. However, athletes that lose any more weight will also
begin to lose muscle mass. Losing muscle will make the wrestler weaker.

A healthy diet is important during any period of
weight loss. Athletes should eat a variety of foods from all food groups. The
diet should also provide enough energy (calories) to support growth, daily
physical activities, and sports activities. They should also drink enough fluids
to stay hydrated.

Once the weight is lost and the desired weight
is met, that weight should be maintained. Athletes that maintain their weight
have a higher resting metabolic rate than those whose weight fluctuates
regularly. As a result, they can eat more without gaining weight.

For more information about a healthy weight loss
program, contact the National Wrestling Coaches’ Association Internet
Weight Classification Program (www.nwcaonline.com or 717/653-8009).
Consulting a sports nutritionist also may be helpful.


The use of rubber suits, steam baths or saunas, prolonged fasting, fluid
restriction, vomiting, drugs, laxatives, diuretics, diet pills, stimulants,
ergogenic aids, and supplements for weight loss should be prohibited at all

Skin conditions

The National Federation of State High School
Associates 2006?2007 Rule Book states that “if the participant is
suspected of having a communicable skin disease, the coach must provide written
documentation from a doctor that the condition is not communicable and that the
athlete’s participation would not be harmful to any opponent.” It
does not list specific skin conditions. However, herpes gladiatorum,
methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and chickenpox all
may cause severe disease, and infected wrestlers should be disqualified.

Common injuries

Head/face injuries

Nosebleeds occur frequently in
wrestling. The bleeding may be stopped by putting pressure on the nose,
placing a plug in the nose, or using a pro-coagulant (a medicine that helps
the blood clot) into the bleeding area of the nose.

Cuts or scrapes usually occur
on the face and often require suturing or glue. Sutures should remain in
longer for wrestlers than for non-wrestlers, because of repeated injuries in
the same location.

Concussion. Wrestlers with a
concussion should not wrestle any more that day. They can return to
wrestling only after they are symptom-free and have seen a doctor.

Cauliflower ear is the result
of recurrent friction to the ear. It is best prevented with the use of
properly fitted headgear with ear protectors during practice and
competition. Cauliflower ears should be treated early (within 24 hours) by
draining the ear and using compression dressings. They tend to reoccur with
further trauma to the ear. Most athletes who have wrestled for many years
without proper headgear have them.

Shoulder injuries

Acromioclavicular (AC) separation or
clavicle fracture
occurs when the wrestler falls on or is thrown
directly onto the shoulder on the mat. Treatment of both is rest to allow
healing; usually 3 to 4 weeks for AC sprains and 2 to 3 months for clavicle

Anterior shoulder dislocation
is the result of forced abduction and rotation (pulled up and away from the
body) of the arm and should be relocated as quickly as possible by the
athlete or an athletic trainer or doctor.

Elbow injuries

Elbow dislocation is caused by
a fall on an outstretched arm and hand. It should be relocated by an
experienced athletic trainer or doctor as soon as possible.

Olecranon bursitis (irritation
of the fluid-filled sac that protects the bone) is caused by repeated trauma
to the point of the elbow. Swelling of the point of the elbow is the main
symptom. It should be treated with rest, ice, compression, and an elbow pad.
If that does not work, it may need to be drained and/or injected with

Knee injuries

Prepatellar bursitis is the
result of a fall on a bent knee or from repeated kneeling. The main symptom
is significant swelling on the front of the knee. It can be treated with
rest, ice, compression, and a knee pad. It may also need to be drained
and/or injected with medicine to reduce the swelling.

Patella dislocation is when the
kneecap comes out of place, causing instant disability and swelling.
Treatment is reduction (putting the kneecap back in place) followed by
physical therapy to strengthen the thigh and hip. A patella stabilizing
brace may also be needed.

Medial collateral ligament
is caused by a direct blow to the outside of the knee.
Treatment is usually brace support and physical therapy.

Anterior cruciate ligament
usually occur from a strong twisting or hyperextension of
the knee. A pop is usually heard or felt, and significant swelling occurs
within 24 hours. Referral to an orthopedic doctor is required.

Meniscal tears are the result
of a twisting injury while weight bearing or squatting. Symptoms may include
painful popping or locking, and swelling in the knee. These can be initially
managed with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, but most will eventually
require surgery.

Back pain

Muscle strains are common
causes of back pain. The pain is usually located in the lower back, but if
it radiates to the buttock or down the leg it should be evaluated
immediately. Once the cause of the pain is identified, rest, bracing, and/or
physical therapy may be needed.


Wrestling injuries can be prevented with proper
supervision and compliance with the rules and safety guidelines in place for

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by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP is not responsible for the
content of the resources mentioned in this publication. Web site addresses are
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