Sports teams promote sportsmanship, motivation, social development, and physical exercise. Therefore, it is no surprise that children are participating in organized sporting leagues at an earlier age. Competitive sport careers are beginning around seven years old, and most children are participating in organized sport activities as early as four years old.
With the number of children participating in sports rising, sports injuries are now the second leading causes of emergency visits for children and adolescents. Physical activity is necessary for health and growth through childhood, but intense, repetitive activity may cause tissues to break down eventually causing injuries. Learn more about common type of injuries, prevention and recovery to ensure your child is receiving the best form of treatment after an injury.
Types of injury:
Sport injuries may result in bruises, strains, sprains, tears and broken bones. Strains and sprains are most common in sport accidents. Some common injuries are described below:
Muscle strain. Muscle strains are also referred to as pulled muscles. It may occur when the muscle is overstretched and tears. With the proper precautions and treatment, muscle strains typically recover fairly quickly.
Torn ACL. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) holds the knee joint together. Torn ACL may occur from landing the wrong way, changing directions quickly, abruptly stopping or blows to the knee. Treatment includes surgery and extensive rehabilitation.
Stress Fracture. Stress fractures occur due to overuse of specific muscles. Children who specialize in one specific sport are more prone to stress fractures due to repetitive movements. Stress fractures typically occur in the legs and feet.
Sprained ankle. The ligaments that support the ankle joint becomes overstretched. The severity of a sprained ankle depends on pre-existing conditions, age and degree of sprain.
Concussion. Concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head. Symptoms may include headaches, confusion, nausea, dizziness, slurred speech, loss of balance and loss of memory. Physical contact sports most often result in an increased risk for concussion, especially football. A neurological exam is necessary after a concussion to determine any further damage.
Injuries are never predictable, but some children are at a greater risk of injury. The following are risk factors to be aware of when registering for a sports team:
Improper footwear or protective gear. Participating in sports can become expensive with participation fees, travel, and sports gear, but proper protective gear and footwear can help protect against future medical bills due to injury.
Sports specialization. Children begin to specialize in one sport at an earlier age each year. Playing one sport year round can cause overuse of specific muscles, especially during growth years.
Intense, repetitive training. Exercises should focus on whole body conditioning during growth to improve flexibility and strength in all muscles.
Imbalance of strength. In the same respect, children who are strengthening only specific parts of their body can cause an imbalance of strength making them more inclined to injury.
Pre-existing condition or anatomical malalignment. Awareness of pre-existing conditions through yearly check-ups is crucial for becoming aware of risk factors.
Prevention of sports injuries
Although there is no foolproof way to prevent injuries caused by sports, you can take some precautions in the following ways:
Physical. A pre-season physical ensures that your child is in physical health to participate in a sporting activity. A physical can also bring awareness to any existing conditions that may put a child at risk for injury.
Diet. As most coaches can attest, a healthy, well-balanced diet is crucial when participating in competitive sports. A mix of proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables are recommended. Staying well hydrated during and between games is equally important.
Exercise program. A pre-season workout should strengthen all muscles regardless of the specific muscles used in that sport. Workouts should be well-rounded to include cardio, strength training and stretching. Injuries can occur due to overuse of muscles, so working other muscles can help to reduce that risk.
Physical therapy. Physical therapy can be both preventive and rehabilitative. Physical therapy before a season can ensure all muscles are properly stretched and strengthened. It is especially important if there have been previous injuries.
Gear. Wear properly fitted gear such as helmets, elbow guards, goggles, mouth guards and shin guards.
Listen to your body. If you get hurt on the field, don’t continue to play through pain thinking you will “work it out”. If injured during the sport, take necessary precautions to avoid serious injuries.
Immediate Treatment of Injuries
Health professionals recommend implementing the P.R.I.C.E. method to reduce swelling and pain immediately, within the first 48 hours, after an injury . The P.R.I.C.E. method is an acronym for the following precautions:
Protection. Immediately after the incident, protect the affected area with a wrap or bandage.
Rest. When the injury occurs, stop the current activity. For the first 48 hours, reduce or eliminate use of the injured area.
Ice. Apply ice to affected area for 10-20 minutes several times a day. Be sure to wrap ice pack in a thin towel to avoid skin damage.
Compression. Immediately after an injury, wrap by compressing the affected area in elastic bandage or wrap. Do not wrap to the point of numbness or pain. Apply ice once the area is adequately wrapped.
Elevation. Lastly, elevate the affected area to about heart level to decrease swelling and promote blood movement.
Recovery from Injuries
Although most people implement the “wait and see” approach when it comes to minor sport injuries, it is not always the best strategy. While rest is a necessary part of the healing process, staying active allows adequate blood flow throughout the body to assist in a healthy recovery. Physical therapists (PTs) can provide an individual treatment plan designed to promote strengthening, stretching and repairing of necessary muscles. PTs can support the child coping with the injury and educate the family when it is appropriate to return to the sport. The PT will create a treatment plan for each of the three phases of recovery:
Acute phase: The acute phase is when the injury initially occurs. The P.R.I.C.E. method as described above, should be the primary treatment during this stage.
Subacute phase: At this stage, range of motion and strengthening exercises can start to be introduced to aid in recovery.
Chronic phase: This is the last stage when the athlete is able to slowly participate in previous workout routines and eventually return to the sport of choice.
In conjunction with an exercise program, PTs may use bracing and taping to aide in recovery. Bracing and taping is a preventative measure to protect a previously injured area when the child returns to the sport. It is important to note that bracing does not reduce the severity of an injury when it occurs.
If your child is interested in participating in a sport activity or recently experienced a sports injury, contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy for an evaluation by one of our skilled physical therapists. Go Team!
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