It’s September. That means school is in full swing and for many kids (and frazzled parents), that means the fall sports season is up and running.
Nothing beats the camaraderie of being part of a team, but along with those exhilarating competitions come the inevitable aches, pains, and often, serious sports injuries, even in children.
Emergency rooms and urgent care centers overflow with young athletes in pain as school sports gear up, and even if your child is just involved in neighborhood recreation, it’s wise to prepare yourself for the occasional injury.
Of course, soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, top the list, and ankle sprains are by far the leading sports injury in children, as the sprain damages the ligament (the tough tissue that connects bones together at the joints), causing severe pain and discomfort. Strains are also a common interruption of play time and can happen to either a muscle or a tendon, and that includes muscles in every part of the body. Parents should also be familiar with growth-plate injuries that occur in the area of developing tissue at the end of the long bones in still-growing children. Usually, once adolescence arrives, this “plate” is replaced by solid bone. Long bones are found in the hands and fingers, in both bones of the forearm, in the femur (the bone of the upper leg), in the tibia and fibula (the lower leg bones), and at the foot bones. When any of these areas become injured, you should take your child to see an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible.
Even in children, stress fractures and tendinitis can occur from overuse. Known as “repetitive motion injuries” for a reason, these ailments, along with the familiar sprains and strains, are best helped with the handy procedure known as RICE.
Rest: Stay off your feet for at least 48 hours, even longer for some injuries.
Ice: Apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day.
Compression: Think wraps, air casts, boots, or splints, as needed to reduce swelling (and hopefully keep your anxious young athlete still!).
Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to reduce swelling.
Especially in the warmer days of September and early October, sports practices can also result in dehydration and heat exhaustion. Symptoms to watch for include dizziness; nausea; pale, moist skin; a weak pulse; and disorientation. Because children perspire less than adults, rigorous activity in sweltering temperatures should be closely monitored at all times.
As your children explore their talents and find a team sport that fits them, you’ll see the benefits of organized sports when it comes to keeping your budding athlete safe and sound. Your recreation center will have a well-maintained facility or playing field; its coaches are trained for emergencies; every piece of equipment should be well-maintained; and young athletes are taught proper use of each piece of equipment, which can greatly reduce the chances of injury in the first place. Many organized football and soccer programs even have certified athletic trainers involved, which means your kids will learn the importance of proper warm-ups and cool-downs as part of their sports routine.
As you’re preparing to send your young superstar out onto the field or the court or the track, make sure they’ve had an up-to-date physical (required by most team sports), and keep them supplied with water, sports drinks, and sunscreen, as well as shin guards, mouth guards, shoulder pads, athletic supporters (for boys), and any other safety equipment recommended for their particular activity. There are some excellent sporting goods consignment stores, so don’t feel these safety measures have to break your budget. So gear up properly, grab that water bottle, and play on!