For Immediate Release
Don’t Let a Sports Injury Keep Your Child on the Sidelines
Nearly four million young athletes suffer a sidelining injury each year in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. While half of these injuries are sustained during individual activities like biking or skateboarding, roughly 25% occur while children are playing team sports like football, baseball, softball, soccer and basketball. With more children playing organized sports than ever before (30+ million last year alone) injury prevention, treatment and return-to-play guidelines should be at the top of every coachs and parents game plan.
Sports injuries in children are complicated, not only by the physical nature of the injury, but by the vast developmental differential at each age, and by the variety of emotional responses each patient may have to his or her injury, explains Kevin Plancher, MD, a leading Manhattan Orthopaedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist and head of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine PLLC in New York City and founder of the Orthopaedic Foundation for Active Lifestyles (www.ofals.org) a non-profit organization dedicated to advancements in research and education for orthopaedics and sports medicine.
Childhood sports injuries can be as simple as a sprained ligament or as serious as a growth-plate fracture, Dr. Plancher notes. So, it is critical to prevent as many injuries as possible, and to properly recognize and treat those injuries that do occur as quickly as possible, he adds.
Preventing Sports Injuries In Young Athletes
Participation in organized sports benefits children’s physical fitness, social integration and self-esteem, Dr. Plancher notes. But these benefits can be outweighed by the risks of injury when young athletes are unprepared, unprotected or uninformed about the game they’re playing, he adds.
To reduce the risk of injury, Dr. Plancher offers these prevention tips: Focus on fun, learning, effort and teamwork, and not on winning or performing at a certain level. This can help avoid overuse injuries which account for nearly half of all injuries to middle and high-school athletes that can occur when children push themselves too hard to achieve a certain level of play, or return too quickly from an injury, says Dr. Plancher. Overuse injuries are particularly common in the upper extremities like the back, shoulder, elbow and wrist in young athletes, a result of the throwing motion thats required in baseball, softball and basketball.
It is important for young athletes to gear up with protective equipment during games and practices (when 60% of injuries occur). Be sure all equipment is both appropriate for the game or practice and properly fitted for the child. This is as important for individual sports like biking and boarding as it is for organized sports, Dr. Plancher advises. While education efforts have resulted in the vast majority of children wearing helmets during these activities, acute injuries to the wrists and elbows are still common among kids who ride bikes, skateboards and scooters without protective padding for those areas, he adds.
Proper Treatment Strategies Can Get Kids Back in the Game
We can’t always rely on the emotional reaction of the child athlete to clue us in on the extent of his or her injury, Dr. Plancher warns. Certain young athletes may mask a serious injury with a brave face in order to stay in the game, while others may overreact to less serious injuries due to pain and fear of additional injury.
Dr. Plancher’s Guidelines for Recognizing and Triaging Sports Injuries in Young Athletes
Err on the side of caution and remove a child who may have been injured from play immediately. Coaches should be trained to recognize the basic signs of injury, including discoloration, swelling, difficulty bearing weight on the affected area, or pain. If in doubt, the child should be seen by an orthopaedist or at the local hospital Emergency Room before he or she resumes play.
Provide RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) at the first sign of injury to avoid further damage and begin the healing process. Every team should have a first aid kit stocked with ice packs and compression bandages for possible sprains and strains, along with antiseptic wash and sterile bandages and tape for cuts and scrapes.
Contact a professional orthopaedist for an expert diagnosis, treatment plan and return-to-play strategy which will vary depending upon the severity and location of the injury, and a number of factors relating to the individual child. However, advances in treatment and technology have made it possible for children with certain injuries to return more quickly than ever to the sports they love. For example, young athletes may be able to return to play from a recent injury to the hand or wrist by wearing a playing cast such as the GE RTV-11. These types of casts help to stabilize the joints and protect against re-injury, Dr. Plancher explains. Although most casts are prohibited from the field of play due to the potential they have to injure other athletes, the RTV-11 is acceptable because of its soft exterior construction, he adds.