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Ultimate Flying Disc Injuries and Safety Tips

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Ultimate, played with a flying disc, has existed since the early 1970's and has exponentially increased in interest among college students, as well as young athletes.

It's a limited contact sport that combines elements of soccer, football, and basketball. Players must run, cut, guard, jump, throw, catch, and sometimes dive with an outstretched arm for the disc.

Because of the high level of endurance and the intricate movement patterns required per game, this limited contact sport can sideline any young athlete because of its demands.

Common Flying Disc Injuries

Because movements in Ultimate are similar to football, soccer, and basketball, most injuries are due to overuse.

The most common injuries occurring in ultimate flying disc include:

  • Knee injuries, such as strains and ligament sprains or ruptures
  • Ankle injuries, such as strains and ligament sprains
  • Shoulder injuries, such as instability as a result of a fall

Any young athlete that experiences pain or soreness for more than 48 hours, should be evaluated by a medical professional.

The experts at UPMC Sports Medicine's Young Athlete Program can work with your pediatrician to evaluate and aggressively treat your young athlete's injury to help prevent more serious long-term effects.

Causes of flying disc injuries

Ultimate players cut, guard, jump, throw, catch and dive with an outstretched arm for 60 to 90 minutes.

It's common for players to have multiple games, playing up to an average of six games in a two-day tournament. This can result in five to 15 miles of running in two days.

Sometimes players also are not ready for the intricate sequences of movements and fast reactions required of the game, which can lead to injury.

Preventing Flying Disc Injuries

The best ways to prevent injuries include:

  • A proper warm-up prior to playing
  • Preseason and in-season strengthening and conditioning
  • Good landing and cutting technique

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) provides stability for an athlete to land and cut or pivot.

When the front thigh muscles contract to help with stabilization, the ACL is stressed, increasing the risk of injury. Learning to use other muscles to help with stability can reduce the risk of an ACL tear by 82 percent.

Proper landing

  • When landing, the knees should be behind the toes and stacked on top of the ankles.
  • Landing with a straight leg forces the knee to absorb four times the body's weight.
  • Position the hips as if you are about to sit in a chair.
  • The trunk and abdominal area should land flexed, not in an upright position.
  • Eliminate side-to-side motion when landing, and land softly. If the feet "slap," the muscles are not absorbing the load.

Proper cutting

  • Cutting or pivoting is a sudden change in direction, common in sports such as ultimate, soccer, and basketball.
  • Often, athletes — especially females — cut or pivot over a straight leg or cross over their legs to change direction.
  • Proper cutting involves changing directions on the outside leg (the leg away from the direction you want to go).

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