For Immediate Release
Spike in Children’s Sports-Related Injuries Is Taking the Fun Out of Childs Play:
Leading NY-area orthopaedist Kevin Plancher, MD, discusses causes, treatment and prevention
Greenwich, CT and NY, NY, February 2005 In roughly three out of every four American households with school-aged children, the usual dollhouses, bookshelves and video games are sharing more and more space with a growing collection of sports gear and equipment, from soccer balls to softball. That’s because the number of children participating in organized sports activities has been steadily skyrocketing in the U.S., with more than 30 million children playing an organized sport last year alone.
Also rising is the number of children who are injured each year playing sports. More than 3.5 million children under age 14 are treated in Emergency Rooms for sports-related injuries each year, with countless others treated in pediatric and/or orthopaedic practitioners offices as well. According to Kevin Plancher, M.D., a leading NY-area orthopaedist and official orthopaedic surgeon of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams, many of these injuries can be prevented, or their severity reduced, when parents, coaches, athletes and healthcare practitioners work as a team.
“Participation in organized sports is so beneficial to children,” Dr. Plancher notes. “It’s great for their physical fitness, their coordination and even their self-esteem. But each of these benefits can be outweighed by the risks when student athletes are unprepared, unprotected or uninformed about the game they’re playing,” he adds.
In preparing children to play organized sports, for instance, Dr. Plancher encourages parents and coaches to take the focus off of competition and place it on learning the fundamentals of the sport. “It’s important to remember that children are still growing, both physically and cognitively, and often cannot perform competitively. This is why they are at greater risk than adults for sports injuries, because they are unable to assess risk appropriately, and because their coordination, reaction times and accuracy are still undeveloped.”
In taking the pressure to win or compete off of children, Dr. Plancher says, parents and coaches can also help prevent “overuse injuries.” Accounting for nearly half of all injuries to middle and high-school students, overuse injuries result when an original injury is not given the proper amount of time to heal before being reintroduced to the sport. “Children who have an extreme outlook on the importance of sports, particularly on the competition or personal performance aspects of sports, are less likely to give an injury adequate time to heal and strengthen, resulting in an overuse injury,” Dr. Plancher explains.
Protection is also key to safety for children playing an organized sport. Dr. Plancher explains, “Many parents and coaches do not realize that more than 60 percent of all sports-related injuries occur during practice, not during games,” he reveals, adding, “This indicates that children are not as well protected during practice sessions as they are at gametime.” It is imperative that children wear all appropriate protective gear for their sport, and follow all safety rules and procedures, for practices and games alike.
Finally, Dr. Plancher urges parents and coaches to become as informed as possible about the risks associated with each sport their children play, and about how proper precautions, protective equipment and safe playing environment can reduce those risks. What’s more, he details the steps parents and coaches can take when an injury does occur to lessen its severity and improve recovery time:
- Recognize the injury: In their zeal to continue playing, children may downplay an injury, which can lead to further injury. A child who may have been injured should be removed from play and evaluated immediately; if there’s any question as to the severity of an injury, the child should be seen by an orthopaedist or at the local ER before he or she resumes play.
- RICE the injury: Beginning at the first sign of injury, the affected area should be treated with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE). 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.
- Respect the injury: Orthopaedists are expert in determining not only the proper diagnosis and treatment of sports-related injuries, but also the recovery time which can vary widely depending upon the severity and location of the injury, and a number of factors relating to the individual child. “Respecting the injury, and allowing it to fully heal, will go a long way toward rebuilding a childs confidence in his or her own body and preventing a reinjury at the same site,” Dr. Plancher notes.