Avoiding Youth Sports Injuries
Each year 2.6 million children under the age of 19 are treated in the emergency department due to sports and recreation related injuries. Sports related injuries are also the number one cause of injury for visits to a primary care physician. It’s important to remember that children under the age of 18 are still growing at this stage of life. Their bones and tendons are constantly stretching and changing and this can put them at a higher risk of injury. So how can you make sure your child isn’t sidelined this season? Here are some tips on how to avoid an injury.
Warm-up and cool down.
Warming up through stretches and calisthenics provides muscles and tendons the opportunity to loosen up and become more flexible before and during a workout, while cooldown exercises allow your child’s body to keep muscles that have been worked loose after their work out. This can help prevent tears in both muscles and tendons and speed up recovery after a tough day at practice.
Use the proper safety gear. This can be anything from a mouth guard, a shin guard, a helmet or anything to help protect vulnerable joints and body parts that might be under high impact during a particular sport. For a list of sport-specific safety information, please click HERE.
This is especially important here in eastern North Carolina where temperatures and humidity can be extreme. Be sure that coaches are allowing time for proper water breaks. Sports drinks aren’t everyone’s favorite, but they pack in electrolytes which your body needs so be sure not to look over their importance, as well.
Listen to your body.
Sometimes it is really hard for coaches to decipher if a child is really injured or is just hurting because they are working hard and not accustomed to the movements and physical demands of the sport. Some children will complain about an injury just to avoid a workout while others will not say a word to a coach or parent about an injury because they don’t want to miss out on playing time or their position on the team. Because of this, it is good practice to leave the decision to the child. Only they know what their limits are and how their body really feels. If a coach is trying to push them through an injury, it can lead to a more severe injury that can cause permanent damage. It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Do you want them to sit out the next game or the next year? Playing games with a serious injury can do more harm than good. Take your child to see a trained professional to properly asses any complaint of injury before continuing workouts.
Treat injuries proactively.
If a child suffers from a sports related injury remember RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). If it is a mild sprain, RICE may be sufficient for recovery. If no improvement is seen after RICE, professional assessment is needed.
We wish all of the youth in our community luck this year with whatever sport they are pursuing. We may even see you on the sidelines, where many of our doctors hang out for our county schools and East Carolina University, but hopefully it is just for a high-five before you head back out on the field! Work hard. Play harder!