April is National Youth Sports Safety Month, and with the mild spring weather, this seems like a good time to listen to what experts are saying about preventing and treating kids’ sports injuries.
Sports injuries can be acute (meaning they happen immediately, as from a fall or a blow)… or they can develop over time… or they can be as a result of reinjury of previous damage. All three types of injuries can be painful and prevent your child from playing sports or participating in other physical activities. Some injuries heal on their own, but others may require surgery or other medical intervention.
According to the website Pain.com, the most common types of acute injuries in children are bruises, scrapes, strains, and sprains. Older children are more likely to suffer a bone fracture than younger children; and they are also more likely to tear a ligament, an injury that may require surgical repair. Often, the only symptom experienced will be pain in the injured area that impairs movement. An examination by a doctor may be needed to tell if the injury is a fracture, sprain, strain, or torn ligament.
Some sports injuries gradually develop over time. Many of these injuries, such as knee damage, “swimmer’s shoulder,” “gymnast wrist,” and “Little League elbow,” involve joint damage and inflammation in the joints due to repeated movements in those joints. These are called “overuse” injuries, and they are on the rise.
According to a ScienceDaily article, Johns Hopkins experts estimate that 30 million to 45 million U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 18 participate in organized sports, many of whom are involved in specialized, intensive year-round training. This can result in long-term injuries, some of which may not even surface until the child reaches adulthood.
Preventing Injuries During Youth Sports
According to information provided by the University of Denver, here are some ways to prevent sports injuries:
- Enroll your child in organized sports through programs that are committed to injury prevention.
- Make sure coaches and support staff are CPR and First Aid certified and the program has emergency protocols in place.
- Make sure your child’s coaches are educated on proper use of equipment, that equipment is maintained, and that coaches enforce rules regarding proper equipment use.
- Invest in proper gear for your child’s selected sport. Safety gear that is too big or too small won’t be as effective as gear that fits properly. Teach your child how to properly care for and use sports and safety equipment.
- Include warm-ups and cool-downs as part of your child’s sport participation. Warm-up exercises help minimize the likelihood of muscle strain and make the body’s tissues more flexible. Cool-down exercises help loosen muscles that tighten during exercise.
- Encourage hydration during sport participation. Whether you choose water or sports drinks, ensure your child hydrates frequently while active.
- Ensure your child wears sunscreen and a hat (when possible) during outside activities.
- Children should play a variety of sports to encourage cross-training.
- Dr. Amy Valasek, a pediatric sports medicine expert at Johns Hopkins, recommends that children engage in no more than five days per week of sport-specific training to allow the body to recover.
For immediate treatment of sprains and strains, remember RICE
- Rest. Reduce or stop using the injured area for at least 48 hours.
- Ice. Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times per day. Wrap the ice pack in a towel prior to use.
- Compression. Consult your doctor on the best option to compress an injured area.
- Elevation. Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to decrease swelling.
If an injury is not fully healed before a child returns to a sport, it is possible that the child will suffer a reinjury in the same area. It is important that the injury be allowed to heal, and that the child return to normal activity gradually to reduce the risk of reinjury. Even if the child is eager to return to playing a sport, he or she should take it slow and avoid overexertion.
Always consult your doctor regarding any severe injuries or injuries with prolonged swelling and/or pain.
And some final words of advice from Dr. Valasek:
“It’s important to remember that the main reason to engage children in sports is not to turn them into professional athletes, but to condition the whole body in a healthy way and instill a sense of discipline, responsibility and team work.”
To read the full article in ScienceDaily, click here: Pediatricians Sound Alarm On Overuse Sports Injuries
To read the full article on Pain.com, click here: National Youth Sports Safety Month