By Trace Ferguson
Summer break is just about over, which means that your kids are gearing up to start the new school year! It also means that moms are running around in a frenzy trying to get everything on the school supply list. But, there are some things that you may not be prepared for. If your child is involved in sports or athletic clubs, there is always a risk of getting injured. You should be as prepared as possible to prevent injuries, but it is also important to know what to do if your child does get injured this sports season.
According to the Nemours Foundation, kids younger than 8 years old are prone to injury because of their slower reaction time and underdeveloped coordination. But, older kids are also prone to injury since the force with which they play their respective sports is greater. Thankfully, there are a few measures that parents can take that can prevent injuries!
The first and probably most obvious precautionary measure is to use proper equipment. You should ask your child’s coach about all the gear she needs for her sport, such as helmets, mouth guards, athletic cups, padding, etc. Make sure that the equipment fits your child properly as ill-fitting gear can cause unnecessary injury. For example, shoes that fit poorly can cause shin splints, fractures or blisters. You should also talk to your doctor about shatterproof eyewear or contacts if your child wears glasses.
Before the season begins, take your kiddo into her doctor for a pre-participation physical exam to get an assessment of your child’s general health and physical condition before starting a sport. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, sports physicals help identify any areas of concern for athletes, and can help prevent them from further injuring themselves if they have a condition that needs to be treated.
Stretching before playing is also crucial to preventing injuries. Warmups before practice or the big game will help loosen up your child’s muscles and get her ready to play! Johns Hopkins Medicine advises that your athlete does both static and dynamic stretches. Static stretches involve holding the same position for a period of time, like touching your toes for 30 seconds, while dynamic stretches involve moving the body, like in jumping jacks.
What do if your athlete is injured
Despite taking precautionary steps, sometimes injury is unavoidable. As a parent, it is important to keep your cool and take your little athlete to get examined by a doctor as soon as possible. Even if an injury seems minor, it is best to play it safe and see a doctor. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, some of the most common injuries across all sports are sprains and strains, concussions, overuse injuries and growth plate injuries.
After visiting the doctor, you can help your athlete’s sprain or strain with the RICE formula.
Rest. Do not use the injured body part! This will only delay the healing process.
Ice. Place ice wrapped in a bag or towel on the injury to help reduce swelling within the first 48 hours. Your child can ice her injury every few hours for 30 minutes at a time until the swelling is gone.
Compress. Leave your injury wrapped in whatever the doctor provided. After bathing, be sure your child takes care to re-wrap her injury when she is completely dry.
Elevate. This is especially true for ankle sprains. Be sure that your little one keeps her foot elevated when sitting or lying down.
Concussions are most common in sports like football, ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse and wrestling. According to the NCAA, females are twice as likely to get concussions in soccer, three times more likely to get them in softball (compared to baseball) and twice as likely to get them in basketball than men are. However, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if your child does have a concussion. According to Mayo Clinic, some symptoms of concussions to watch for are persistent headaches or neck pains, difficulty remembering or concentrating, slowness in talking or thinking, getting easily lost or confused, and nausea. Upon noticing these symptoms, take your athlete to a hospital right away to seek treatment.
Overuse injuries occur from the overuse of a specific body part. According to the Nemours Foundation, some examples of overuse injuries include swimmer’s shoulder, shin splints, little league elbow, anterior knee pain, etc. For these types of injuries, the RICE method is usually most effective, although sometimes a cast or crutches may be necessary.
Growth plate injuries
Last but certainly not least, growth plate injuries can occur after an accident on the field. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases classifies the growth plate as the area of “developing tissue at the end of the long bones in growing children and teens.” When the growth plate is fully developed, it is replaced by a hardened bone. If not treated, an injured growth plate can lead to crooked bones, shortened limbs or arthritis. Since they are still growing, growth plates are the weakest part of the skeleton. The long bones affected with this type of injury include the ones in hands and fingers, both bones in our forearms, bones in the upper and lower leg, and foot bones. For these types of injuries, get professional help as your child may need to see an orthopedic surgeon depending on the severity of the injury.
There is always a chance of getting hurt with any physical activity, but this risk should not stop your child from getting active! The best thing you can do as a parent is be informed so that you know what to do if an injury occurs.
*This information does not replace medical advice from your doctor.