Keeping Healthy Kids Injury Free
By Beth Cline
It’s the call all parents of young
athletes both dread and expect- their child has been injured playing
a sport. While occasional bumps and bruises are a natural part of an
active lifestyle, parents can do many things to protect their child
from unnecessary injuries.
Some may ask, why put a child at
risk for injury by allowing him to play a physically risky team
sport? The answer being, the benefits of athletics outweigh the
risks. Besides the physical advantages of greatly reducing a
child’s risk of obesity, diabetes and heart conditions, team sports
help build a child’s social skills and teach group cooperation to
accomplish a common goal. Sports give children a chance to
improve coordination, promote a healthy lifestyle and prepare them
for a lifetime of physical activity.
While beneficial, playing sports
still poses a risk and a unique set of physical vulnerabilities.
Football players account for the most injuries and a large majority
of these are related to the knees and ankles, where children are
least protected by padding. For basketball players, knee and
shoulder injuries are most likely. Soccer players will
experience the largest amount of cuts, scrapes and bruises out of
all child athletes, according to the National Institute of Arthritis
and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Soft tissue
strains, bone fractures and elbow tenderness are most often reported
in conjunction with baseball players. Runners can expect strains and
sprains in their legs, as their most common injury.
According to the National Parent
Teacher Association, more than 20 million children between the ages
of 6 and 16 play an out-of-school sport and 25 million play
competitive school sports. Of these, almost 45 million child
athletes, nearly four million will be treated in the emergency room
for sports injuries and another eight million by their family
physician each year. While many of these injuries are minor, a
large number are, in fact, preventable. Parents can do
their part to prevent injuries even before a child begins to play a
Sign up for age and
size appropriate sports. Try to find sports teams at schools,
clubs or in the community where certified athletic trainers are
Make sure children
are in the shape/condition necessary to play a specific sport by
consulting the child’s physician for a preseason physical.
Help children to
know, understand and follow the rules of the sport they will be
Be aware of coaching
methods used for the child’s team and be sure the coach is
teaching proper techniques.
Just to be safe, Dr.
Michael Moses of the Northern Virginia Pain and Rehabilitation
Center reminds parents to “ask the coach/trainer what emergency
plans are in place in case of a traumatic injury to a player.”
Once a child begins to play a
sport, parents should remember these useful guidelines:
Wear all relevant
protective gear in both practice and games, particularly for the
head and neck. Teach children to use necessary athletic
equipment properly and check equipment regularly for normal wear
Be aware children
sweat less than adults and therefore, it is easier for them to
have heightened body temperatures. This can lead to dehydration
and heat exhaustion. Prevent this by dressing children
appropriately for the weather, remembering sunscreen and making
sure children have access to plenty of water.
Teach the importance
of warm up and cool down periods to prevent strains and reduce
risk of muscle tears. This can include stretching and a light
run or jog.
Set up an emergency
plan with the child’s coaches, just in case.
While prevention of injuries
is preferable, they do happen and every parent should know how to
treat basic sports related injuries. NIAMS recommends the RICE
method for the treatment of minor injuries at home:
Rest injured area for 48 hours.
Ice area for 20 minutes 4-8 times a day to reduce swelling.
Compression using a splint, air cast or elastic wrap will reduce
swelling and stabilize injuries.
Elevation- Use a pillow to prop injured area above the level of
the heart to increase blood flow and circulation.
Significant injuries can occur as a
result of team sports. Parents should get children professional
treatment immediately for major injuries including an obvious
fracture, dislocation, abnormal swelling and severe pain. When in
doubt, always consult a physician. After children experience
any significant injury, they should only return to the sport with a
doctor’s expressed permission to prevent further risk of injury. Dr.
Moses tells child athletes, “taking the time to fully recover will
actually put you back in the game faster.”
Parents and their children can
take many steps to prevent a dreaded injury call, however, should an
injury occur, the proper treatment can ensure your child’s quick
return to an active and injury free lifestyle.
Articles in the Healthy Kids Series
are presented by the Marine Corps Marathon Healthy Kids Fun Run,
held every October in Arlington, VA on the day prior to the Marine
Corps Marathon. Visit www.marinemarathon.com. Beth Cline
is a member of the Marine Corps Marathon marketing staff.