Safety First When Children Participate in Organized Sports, Health First Surgeon Recommends
Tips For Young Athletes When it Comes To Preventing Sports Injuries
Whether you are a coach, athlete, parent or healthcare provider, preventing sport injuries is a priority.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), participation in organized sports is on the rise. Nearly 30 million children and adolescents participate in youth sports in the United States. Of those, more than 3.5 million kids younger than 14 received medical treatment for sports injuries every year.
Dr. Kurt Hensel, an expert in sport injuries, is a board-certified surgeon by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery and an Orthopedic Surgeon with Health First Medical Group.
With fall sports approaching, here are a few tips Dr. Hensel suggest you keep in mind when it comes to preventing sports injuries:
Most common injuries/overuse injuries - As with adults, the most common sports injuries are contusions, ligament sprains and muscle/tendon strains. Higher energy injuries in children can also result in fractures (broken bones). Overuse injury can occur primarily from overextending the child with participation on multiple teams, playing too long on any given day or failing to give adequate rest intervals between play. Chronic or permanent orthopedic injury can occur in children from overuse injury, so it should be taken seriously.
Why children are more prone to injury - A growing musculoskeletal system is more prone to injury than a physically mature one. Bones, for example, grow by first laying down collagen, which then is mineralized to solidify. During rapid growth phases of childhood and adolescence, one is more prone to injury near the growth plate of any particular bone, since it is not yet mineralized into solid bone. All other musculoskeletal structures around bone must grow proportionally to function normally, which takes time. Let's not forget that the brain is also developing as the rest of the body grows. Coordination and control of all of the moving parts is critical for function, and must be allowed adequate time to occur.
Injury prevention - Parents whose child or children are participating in sports should first know the limits. Too many kids participating in three different competitive sports teams at the same time usually is excessive and increases chance for an injury. As our bodies physically mature into adulthood, assuming proper training and conditioning, we become more tolerant but not immune to overuse injury. In most cases, limiting kids to one or, at most, two competitive sports teams at a time is recommended.
Treatment - If your child sustains a sports-related musculoskeletal injury, first and foremost the child should stop playing to avoid further injury. A ligament sprain or muscle strain will invariably first swell, so treatment with rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) is key. If appropriate, use of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) taken with food can be helpful. Immobilization with a splint or brace to stabilize the affected joint is also usually necessary.
Safety gear - Contact sports and sports where injury is more likely usually have recommended or required event-specific protective equipment. When required, all youth participants will need to demonstrate proper use of protective equipment to play. Optional protective equipment can - in certain cases - also be beneficial. Examples would include helmets for cycling or skating, wrist guards for skateboard parks and cups for baseball. Make sure to get the appropriate size, quality gear when investing in protective equipment.