sports injuries

How to Prevent Sports Injuries in Your Kids

More children are participating in organized sports than ever. Sports are a fantastic way to learn teamwork and stay fit, but they also come with the risk of injury. According to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine:

  • High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year.
  • More than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year.
  • Children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals. On average, the rate and severity of injury increase with a child’s age.
  • Injuries associated with participation in sports and recreational activities account for 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among children in the United States.

Watching your child get hurt is a terrible experience. Just ask Colleen D., whose daughter suffered severe injuries during a soccer game.

“You expect your child to get banged up a little while playing sports, like bruises and scrapes. But when our daughter experienced a blow to the head, resulting in several orbital fractures and a severe concussion, we were blindsided. The days of hospitalizations and surgery were frightening. You feel helpless when they are hurt.”

July 16-22 is National Youth Sports Week. Here are some of the risks and how to protect your kids.

Common Sports Injuries

Concussions – A concussion is when a bump or blow to the head causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. The brain bounces around or twists inside the skull, creating chemical changes in the brain and sometimes stretching and damaging brain cells. The CDC estimates that 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States each year. Concussions can cause long-term cognitive and health problems and should be checked immediately. Your child should not continue to play if he or she has a concussion! A second head injury quickly after the first can cause death.

Symptoms: headache, dizziness, feeling sick or throwing up, difficulty with coordination or balance, blurred vision, slurred speech or saying things that don’t make sense, feeling confused and dazed, difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions, trouble remembering things, feeling sleepy, having difficulty falling asleep.

Broken bones – Fractures accounted for 10.1 percent of all injuries sustained by US high school athletes, according to the National Institutes of Health. While you might assume it’s easy to spot a broken bone, smaller fractures are harder to detect. Some people think if their leg is broken they wouldn’t be able to walk on it, but in some cases, you could — it would just hurt a lot!

Symptoms: Pain, swelling, deformity, feeling a snap or hearing a grinding noise as the injury occurs, bruising or tenderness around the area, pain when you put weight on the area or move it. Your child may feel faint, dizzy, or sick afterward, caused by the shock of breaking a bone.

Sprains, strains – These are the most common injuries. A joint sprain is when your ligaments are overstretched or torn. Ligaments are tissues that connect two bones, and ankles are the most common sprain location. On the other hand, a strain is the overstretching or tearing of muscles or tendons. Tendons connect bones to muscles; hamstrings are frequently strained.

Sprain symptoms: bruising, pain around the affected joint, swelling, limited flexibility, difficulty using the joint’s full range of motion.
Strain symptoms: muscle spasm, pain around the affected joint, swelling, limited flexibility, difficulty using the joint’s full range of motion.

How to Protect Your Kids

According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable. Here is how:

  • Baseline Concussion Testing – Before the sports season begins, take your child for a baseline concussion test. Area doctors and sports leagues offer this test, a way to measure your child’s healthy brain function. The tests measure reaction time, memory capacity, executive function, and speed of mental processing. Each concussion and person are unique; knowing your child’s previous brain function will help doctors interpret results following a concussion.
  • Protective Equipment – Most parents know that safety equipment is critical. But although 62 percent of organized sports-related injuries occur during practice, one-third of parents do not have their children take the same safety precautions at practice that they would during a game. Make sure your child is protected at all times. The equipment he/she wears depends on the sport, but consider helmets, knee/elbow pads, mouthguards, footwear, shin guards, eyewear, and other guards/pads.
  • Warm-up before play – Dynamic stretching and warm-ups are critical to prevent sprains and strains. Although your children are likely far more agile than you, they still need to prepare before playing. Cold stretches aren’t enough. A dynamic warm-up consists of movement intended to get the heart rate up. You should actually break a small sweat during the warm-up; your body literally needs to be warm.
  • Learn the guidelines – Not all sports leagues are created equal. The rules followed by coaches and leagues will vary from nonprofit groups to private organizations to school-based programs. Find out whether your child’s league has emergency plans in place for injury, cardiac arrest, lightning/weather, medical services, as well as guidelines about the right level of play by age group.

What To Do If Your Kid Gets Hurt

If your child is injured, the coach should remove him or her from play immediately so the health professionals standing by can assess the situation.

Should I go to the ER?

Sprains, bruises and more can be treated by your Generations primary care physician. We have an X-Ray on site to help determine if an injury is a break or something less serious. For obvious broken bones or a concussion, seek immediate medical attention at the Emergency Department. Have questions or need advice? Call our Advice Nurse Line (919) 852-3999, Option 2.