Your child may be one of the estimated 50 million children participating in organized sports throughout the country. Sports programs are great in teaching the children about teamwork, competition, and providing much needed exercise. However, statistics show that 1 in 3 of these children will be injured enough to miss a practice or a game and over a million are expected to visit an emergency room this year for a sports related injury with medical expenses costing over a billion dollars a year.
The majority of organized sports related injuries occur during practice rather than games. The top sports for injuries are football, basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball, wrestling, cheerleading, gym, and track and field.
The most common injuries are to the head, face, fingers, knees, and ankles. The most common injury diagnoses are sprains/strains, fractures, contusions/abrasions, concussions, lacerations, and dislocations.
Concussions in particular, have received much attention recently and appropriately so. There is no longer any doubt about the short term and potential long term dangers of this injury, especially to the young developing brain. We now have very specific guidelines about when to allow a child with a head injury to return to games or practices, as well as how best to treat a child with a significant head injury/concussion.
Symptoms of a concussion are loss of consciousness no matter how brief, headache, vomiting, memory loss, and behavioral changes especially confusion and/or feeling “foggy”. Any of these symptoms necessitate prompt medical attention.
There is also the issue of overuse injuries involving tendons, bones, and joints. This is due to playing the same sport and performing the same movements too often, too hard, and at too young an age without adequate rest and recovery.
Sports related injuries are inevitable, but there are some things that can be done to help prevent and treat injuries. Be sure your child is involved in a sports program that is properly maintained and adequately coached. Coaches should be certified in CPR and have a plan to respond to emergencies.
Make sure your child has and uses proper gear for a particular sport in order to reduce the chance of injury.
Encourage your child to perform warm up and cool down routines prior to and after sports participation. The warm up will make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible and the cool down will loosen muscles that may have tightened during exercise.
Be sure your child has access to adequate liquids during exercise and while playing. Emphasize the importance of maintaining hydration to prevent dehydration and heat illness.
Encourage liberal use of sun screen to protect the skin from the sun’s damaging rays and help to prevent future melanoma.
Get professional help if you think your child’s injury is serious, such as when you suspect a fracture or dislocation of a joint, severe pain or swelling.
Statistics show that only 1 in 4 young athletes become elite players in high school and only 1 in 1600 high school athletes go on to professional status. Therefore the emphasis in youth sports should be in the enjoyment and long term involvement in exercise and sports. And remember to match your child’s abilities to the sport and not to push him or her too hard into a sport they may not like or be incapable of doing.