Playing it Safe with Sports Injuries

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 3.5 million sports-related injuries every year in children under 15. Sports and recreational activities contribute to nearly 20 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children. While most injuries heal, some can have lasting effects. As a parent, here’s what you need to know about preventing and treating sports injuries.

Types of Sports Injuries

Acute injuries occur in a single sudden twist, fall or collision. These range from bruises, sprains and strains to fractures. Your doctor may order X-rays or other tests to evaluate the bones and soft tissues involved and determine the best course of action.

Overuse injuries are a series of small injuries over time that cause minor fractures, muscle tears or bone deformities. One type of overuse injury affects the growth plates, which are areas of developing tissues at the end of long bones, such as in the arm or leg. Often these are stress fractures that heal without any lasting effect. Young athletes can also overstretch the spine, causing a stress fracture.

Concussions are mild brain injuries caused by a blow to the head. Symptoms can range from dizziness to slurred speech and memory loss.

No matter what kind of injury your child sustains, never encourage your child to “play through the pain.” Treatment varies by injury, but if your child suffers a sprain or strain, the best treatment is easy to remember — RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Make sure your child’s injury has completely healed before returning to sports activity. Your doctor will be able to provide specific advice for your child.

Avoiding Sports Injuries

Encourage healthy competition, not winning at all costs. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers these recommendations:

  • Choose age appropriate sports. The AAP recommends that children be at least six years old before playing team sports.
  • Before beginning a sport, help your child get into shape. Schedule a physical exam, and talk to your doctor about a conditioning program.
  • Prepare and end activities with stretching exercises.
  • Don’t let your child overdo it. Start out slowly with any new activity. Stop your child from playing if he or she is tired or in pain.
  • Keep your child well hydrated with water or sports drinks.
  • Ensure that your child has the right athletic gear for the sport — shoes, mouth guards, body pads, helmets — and that they fit properly. 

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