More than 2.6 million children ages 19 and younger visit the emergency department annually for recreation and sports-related injuries. Kids are still growing and developing, which puts them at a greater risk than adults for sports-related injuries.
Children who also play contact sports, such as soccer, lacrosse or football, are at an even greater risk for injury. To help them avoid injury, follow these rules:
Wear protective gear: Pads, helmet, mouth guard and non-shattering eyeglasses.
Play by the rules: Prohibit dangerous practices, such as sliding headfirst in baseball.
Create a safe playing field: Make sure the field or court is free of debris, holes and other hazards.
Avoid overplaying: Take frequent breaks during strenuous sports to prevent overuse injuries, like muscle tears and fractures. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends taking a two-month break from a specific sport every year.
Consider other health conditions: Get a pre-season physical to rule out any pre-existing conditions that may limit a child's ability to participate in sports.
Warm up and tone up: Stretch before and after every game to keep muscles and tendons flexible. Also follow a conditioning program to strengthen muscles, which are less likely to be injured.
Avoid hot weather: Drink fluids before, during and after a game outdoors to stay hydrated. The AAP also recommends that kids and teens take a water break every 20 minutes.
Group kids by size: Encourage the coach to group players by size and skill level to decrease the risk of injury.
Recognize the signs of an injury: Quick treatment of an injury can prevent it from becoming more severe. Seek prompt medical treatment if any swelling, severe pain or visibly broken bones occur.
Don't return to play too early: If an acute or overuse injury occurs, make sure your child is completely free of symptoms and has full range of motion before returning to play. It's recommended that your health care provider clear your child before returning to play.
If your child experiences a sports-related injury, it's important to see your health care provider or an orthopedic specialist before returning to the game.■
Brian Black is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospital.