Parents want their children to be physically fit and healthy, so they often encourage them to participate in organized sports. Sports help keep young bodies in top physical shape, but they can also lead to injuries. More than 2.6 million children 0-19 years old are treated in the emergency department each year for sports and recreation-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Kunal Kalra, orthopedic surgeon at DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan, shared his advice on sports injuries with me. He is trained in pediatric orthopedics and orthopedic sports medicine. “Common fall sports injuries can include sprains and strains, stress fractures, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, bruises, dislocations, pulled muscles and concussions,” says Kalra. He believes a little preparation goes a long way in preventing some sports injuries.
Make sure your child is in top physical shape before he starts the season. Get a sports physical to uncover any underlying medical problems that could potentially increase complications and injuries, warns Kalra.
Young athletes should participate in regular warm-up exercises to increase flexibility. This means doing stretching exercises. Adequate warm-ups and stretches are required to prevent muscular and tendon injuries.
Don’t underestimate the importance of safety equipment. Kalra strongly suggests using devices such as pads, helmets, mouthpieces and protective cups and eyewear. Additionally, sunscreen should be used for outdoor sports to prevent burns, and your child should hydrate before, during and after exercise to avoid heat-related illness.
Conditioning exercises of the muscles refer to exercises such as squats, lunges for legs and push ups for the upper body. These typically increase strength and endurance — the ability to perform an activity for prolonged periods with specific muscle groups. This conditioning in turn helps prevent injuries. There are sports specific conditioning drills that combine cardiovascular training and muscle training
To reduce the risk of injuries during the season, children must be coached about the prevention of overuse injuries of the upper and lower extremities. Proper coaching refers to educating the kids and their parents about the warning signs of overuse injuries. For example, if a child has persistent pain in her/his shoulder, it may be due to the fact that he has been pitching too many pitches per inning or game. This can lead to growth plate inflammation, and the athlete needs to back off sports for a few days to weeks, Kalra says. It’s not always okay to play with pain.
Another example is the knee giving out after an injury. While many times it’s just muscle weakness that can be treated with therapy, sometimes it is serious, such as in a ligament tear.
Your child should never continue an activity if the pain is severe or if it persists more than 2 weeks, warns Kalra.
Source: Interview, September, 2013; Kunal Kalra, M.D.; DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan
image credit: sxc.hu/kwod
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