Let’s help kids stay in the game for life, PREVENT and STOP unnecessary sports injuries.
I am a mother of four boys and I would be the last person to discourage children from playing sports. I love so many of the aspects that sports has to offer. Sports help children physically develop skills, get exercise, make friends, have fun and learn to play as a team member, and learn to play fair and improve self esteem. It is important to remember that the attitudes and behaviors taught to children in sports carry over to adult life.
With the rising number of children being diagnosed with obesity every year, I wish many more children would move away from their computers, put down their iPods and cellphones and devote more time and energy to physical activities.We need to ensure that our kids are in a safe environment. But, for many children and adolescents, the problem is the just the opposite of being too sedentary, its overtraining and burnout leading to overuse injuries.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, participation in organized sports is on the rise. Nearly 30 million children and adolescents participate in youth sports in the United States. This increase in participation has led to some startling statistics in injures among America’s young athletes.
The CDC reports that more than 3.5 million children under 14 years of age receive medical treatment for sports injuries, overuse injuries account for almost 50% of these injuries. (1)
According to the CDC, more than half of all injuries in children are preventable. (2)
The American sports culture has become increasingly competitive and stressful… “Win at all cost”” attitude, creating an unhealthy environment. As children around the US become increasingly involved in competitive and more organized sports activities, the frequency and severity of both acute and overuse injuries continues to arise.
Encouraged by parents and coaches, many young athletes are having the vision of glory and scholarship. Too many young athletes are being pushed or they are pushing themselves to the point of breaking down, not only physically but often emotionally. As these young athletes are pushed, they stray further and further from its core mission of providing healthy, safe and character building recreation for children that will last into adulthood. Unfortunately the goal is getting skewed and our kids are unnecessarily getting injured.
CAUSES of YOUTH SPORT INJURIES:
Participation in any sport, whether recreational or competitive can teach kids to stretch their limits and learn sportsmanship and discipline. But any sports carries the potential for injury.
By knowing the cause of sports injuries and how to prevent them, you can help make athletics a positive experience for your child.
- Kids, particularly those younger than 8 years old, are less coordinated and have a slower reaction time than adults because they are still growing and developing.
- Kids mature at different rates. Often there is a substantial difference in height and weight between kids of the same age. When kids of varying sizes play sports together, there may be a greater potential of injury.
- Lack of pre-season conditioning.
- Not warming up, cooling down or not stretching properly.
- Kids may not access the risk of certain activities as fully as adults might. So they unknowingly take risks that can result in injuries.
- Failure to provide reliable safety equipment (helmets, shin guards, etc) for all athletes.
- Overzealous practices schedules that do not allow proper rest or stretching.
- Failure to recognize and treat an injury promptly and competently.
- Playing while injured.
- Failure to ensure that young athletes have access to a health care professionals who is qualified to make medical assessments and decisions.
- Failure to educated family and players signs and symptoms of injuries.
- Allowing or even encouraging over aggressive or prohibited behavior.
- Denying athletes adequate water and rest during practices and game.s
- Poor nutrition and hydration.
- Unprepared for weather and temperature, too hot or too cold.
- More youths are specializing in one sport at an early age and training all year round.
PREVENTION OF YOUTH SPORTS INJURIES:
Review the Parent’s checklist for the sports. Ensure a safe and healthy playing environment for the children who participate in the sport.
- Use proper equipment and safety gear that is the correct size, fits well and is properly maintained.
- Make sure that all surfaces from courts to tracks to playing fields are in good condition, not full of holes and ruts.
- Warm up before exercising. This can minimize the chance of a muscle strain or other soft tissue injuries during sporting events. Warm up exercises make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible, thus preventing injuries.
- Wear sunscreen and a hat to reduce the chance of a sunburn.
- Stay well hydrated before, during and after any physical activity.
- Know your coach. Any team sport or activity that kids participate in should be supervised by qualified adult. Select a team and league with the same commitment. The team coach should have training in first aid and CPR. The coach’s philosophy should promote player’s well being and development.
- Make sure that your child is matched for sports according to their skill level, size and physical and emotional maturity.
- Allow adequate rest between practices and games.
- Play a variety of sports. Playing multiple sports at different times of the year gives some muscles a chance to rest while other are being worked.
Common Types of Injuries:
1. Acute injuries occur suddenly and are usually associated with some form of trauma. Acute injuries can vary from minor bruises, stain, sprains to broken bones and torn ligaments. Acute injures often occur because of lack of proper equipment or the use of improper equipment. For example, no eyewear, no mouth guard, improper foot wear, loose cage of a helmet…….
2. Overuse Injuries occur from repetitive actions that put too much stress on bones and muscles. These account for more than 50% of all sports related injuries and are the most preventable. Overuse injuries also occur in adults but are more problematic in child athletes because of the effect they may have on bone growth.
Most common types of overuse injuries:
- Anterior knee pain
- Little league elbow
- Swimmer’s shoulder
- Shin splints
Overuse injuries can be caused or aggravated by:
- Growth spurts or an imbalance between flexibility and strength
- Inadequate warm up
- Excessive activity, increased intensity, duration and frequency
- Playing the same sport year-round or multi sports during the same season
- Improper technique, whether throwing, catching, running, skating, jumping….
- Unsuitable equipment, from non supportive, improper fit…
3. Re-injuries occur from returning to the sport before the previous injury has sufficiently healed. Avoid a re-injury by allowing an injury to completely heal. A medically trained professional should be clear or approve the child to return to the sport.
TREATING YOUTH SPORTS INJURIES:
For acute injuries better to play it “safe than sorry”. Administer first aid immediately, then follow up with a doctor. If the injury seems more serious, it is important to take your child to the nearest hospital emergency room. Don’t trust the diagnosis to a parent or a fan in the stands.
For overuse injuries, the philosophy is similar. If a child begins complaining of pain, it’s the bodies way of saying there is a problem so do not wait to have it checked out.
Have the child examined by a qualified health care professional. It is important to get overused injuries diagnosed and treated as soon as possible to prevent them from developing into larger chronic problems.
Your doctor may recommend:
- Continue to play but use protective device (ex. knee brace, wrist guard..).
- Rest, Ice and recover to allow the healing process to begin and preventing further injury.
- Undergo rehabilitation (physical therapy) to support tissues like muscles, tendons and ligaments.
- See an orthopedist or sports medicine specialist for further diagnosis and imaging ( X-ray, CT, MRI…).
- See a chiropractor to help restore normal mobility to the joints, muscles, spine and nervous system.
- Receive acupuncture to decrease, pain, swelling and healing time.
- Use proper nutritional support to decrease swelling and facilitate the repair process of the damaged muscles and connective tissues. Including an anti-inflammatory diet can also reduce the recovery time.
*ALWAYS have your treating physician determine when your recovery is complete and when you can return to your sporting activities.
When at least 60 percent of all injures sustained were in direct relation to training and overuse injuries…..have we gone too far? Are we putting too much emphasis on athletic participation and performance all consuming and causes injuries that can sometimes compromise a child’s future?
The most important thing to do when you suspect you your child is injured is STOP doing whatever sporting activity has caused the injury right away and seel medical advice.
In good health,