by | Jun 1, 2008 | Features

Story by Leann Pacheco

As summer begins, many children are gearing up for or have already begun an exciting season of team sports. However, with the number of adolescents treated for sports injuries growing each year, the importance of proper safety precautions should not be overlooked.
According to Robin Duffield, M.D., pediatrician with Millard Henry Clinic, the top causes of summer sports-related injuries include baseball, softball, soccer, bike riding and basketball. Parents who are equipped with the right preventive knowledge can positively impact their child’s sports experience.
Children are more susceptible to sports injuries because they are still growing. Also, children develop at different rates, so often children of different sizes will be playing against one another. Lastly, children do not usually assess risks when playing sports, making them more prone to injury.
One of the most important steps in preventing injuries is to use the safety equipment designated for a particular sport, such as helmets, quality shoes, mouth guards and face masks. To be effective, this equipment must fit properly and be worn correctly.
Even with precautions, sports-related injuries are not always avoidable. There are two general types of injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries occur as a result of a specific instance such as a fall or a collision with another player. These injuries include sprains, lacerations, strains, fractures and bruises. Medical treatment of these injuries should begin immediately.
Chronic injuries happen over time and typically occur as a result of repetitive training, such as running or overhand throwing. Stress fractures, tendonitis, or growth plate overload injuries are examples of chronic injuries. If left untreated, chronic injuries will likely worsen so prompt treatment is important.
“When children and young athletes are injured, it’s easy to panic,” said Dr. Duffield, “but don’t.” For acute injuries — she explained — remember the acronym R.I.C.E., which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. These interventions will help most sprains, strains and mild bone injuries.
“However, if you suspect a fracture or see that an injury site has prolonged swelling, seek medical attention.”
When considering treatment of a sports-related injury, it is important to distinguish between soreness and pain. Experiencing temporary soreness after team practice is normal, but if the discomfort persists as a result of chronic pain, it must be addressed. If the pain continues for over a week and worsens, stop playing whatever sport has caused the injury and see a doctor.
Fortunately, rehabilitation programs are available to provide young athletes with an opportunity to safely stay in shape and prepare for a healthy return to athletic activity. Rehab programs can be offered by a doctor or physical therapist and include special exercises or therapy that will help relieve pain and heal the injury.

To play sports safely from start to finish, remember these tips:
See a doctor. Before beginning any sport, consult a physician for a complete physical exam.
Drink plenty of water. Children are at a higher risk for dehydration than adults and can become dehydrated even in cool weather or while playing indoor sports.
Wear safety gear. Use safety gear that is appropriate for the sport of choice and always wear a helmet when participating in contact sports.
Treat injuries immediately. Young athletes should receive medical attention immediately following an injury. If he or she experiences sports-related pain that continues and intensifies for more than a week, consult a doctor.
Let injuries heal. Although young athletes may be resistant to the idea of sitting on the sidelines, leaving an injury untreated can have dangerous long-term consequences that affect growth and bone density.
By taking appropriate safety measures before beginning a sport and by properly treating sports-related injuries, young athletes can enjoy a fun and safe sports season.
“And remember,” added Duffield, “when outside this summer, cover children with appropriate clothing, hats and insect repellents.” If you have further questions regarding safety precautions, contact your physician.

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