Because a child’s bones, muscles, brain, and other organs are different than an adult’s, they respond much differently to injuries, stress, and athletic training, as well as require comprehensive, specialized treatment.
Shauna M. Butler, M.D. at Texas Children’s Pediatrics joined Studio 512 Co-Host Rosie Newberry to tell us more about how to prevent sports injuries.
How many sports injuries occur each year?
“In the U.S., approximately 60 million children and teens participate in some form of athletics, and approximately 44 million are involved in more than one sport. Kids are participating in sports at younger ages and many are playing multiple sports simultaneously. All of these factors contribute to a higher number of sports injuries. Overall, there are about 3.5 million visits for sports injuries each year,” Dr. Butler said.
What are the most common sports injuries in children?
“The most common injuries are musculoskeletal in nature. This includes sprains and strains, but also more significant injuries such as fractures and dislocations. Concussions are another common injury that we see, and these occur most often when kids are playing football and soccer. One surprising sports injury I see, which is not typically thought of as an injury and is totally preventable is dehydration.”
When should you take your child to see a doctor/specialist?
Dr. Butler said you should take your child to a doctor for:
- Symptoms that do not go away after rest and home treatment
- Any condition that affects training or performance that has not been given a diagnosis or has not been treated
- Any condition that may be a risk to other teammates or competitors
Competition amongst today’s young athletes is fierce and they tend to push themselves to the point of injury. How do you distinguish an overuse injury, can you treat them at home, and when should you visit the doctor?
“In the adolescent population, 50% of injuries are from overuse and 60% of those injuries are preventable,” Dr. Butler said.
“Overuse injuries can affect muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and growth plates. Injuries to the growth plates can be very serious as they can affect bone growth. These injuries most commonly involve the knee and foot but vary based on the sport your child is participating in. In certain sports such as baseball, we frequently see overuse injuries of the throwing arm, such as Little League Elbow and Little League Shoulder, while in gymnastics and dance we tend to see stress injuries of the back.”
“If your child has an overuse injury, they may notice pain (or other symptoms) that get worse with activity but goes away with rest; tightness, popping or grinding in joints; mild or localized swelling; weakness.”
“You should consult with a doctor if pain or other symptoms do not go away even with at-home treatments such as rest, ice, or use of pain medicines, if there is localized pain that gets worse over time or increases with continued activity, or if the pain disrupts daily activity or sleep.”
How can you help prevent injury from occurring?
“Two of the most important things you can do are rest and perform core/flexibility exercises. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking at least one day per week and at least one month off per year. For example, in youth baseball players, almost 50% of injuries occur when pitchers throw back-to-back days,” Dr. Butler said.
“Strengthening the core muscles is vital to preventing injuries in all sports. Probably the most simple, yet most effective bodyweight exercises, you can do are holding a plank and hip bridge. If you have a pair of exercise bands, hip abduction and hip/trunk rotation exercises help with both strengthening the core and stabilizing the hips.”
“It’s also extremely important to make sure your children are wearing the appropriate safety equipment for their sport and that it fits them correctly. They should also follow the rules meant to keep the game safe, such as no spear tackling in football and no checking in hockey.”
Will early sport specialization help prevent sports injury since you’re only focusing on a specific set of muscles?
“The surprising answer here is no. You should allow your child to participate in a variety of sports because they will be using multiple movement patterns instead of just one, as well as decreasing the risk for overuse injury and burnout. For example, if your son’s favorite sport is baseball, try swimming or soccer in the off-season,” Dr. Butler said.
If my child gets injured can I take them to my pediatrician or do they need to see a specialist?
“That depends,” Dr. Butler said. “It really depends on the severity of the injury. If your child has a severe acute injury such as a forearm fracture, you’ll probably be taking them to an emergency room, where they’ll be treated and they may need to see a specialist right away. For less severe injuries such as strains and sprains, I’d recommend you start with your pediatrician. They’ll examine your child, order imaging if needed, and refer you to a specialist if they feel it is necessary.”
This segment is paid for by Texas Children’s Hospital and is intended as an advertisement. Opinions expressed by the guest(s) on this program are solely those of the guest(s) and are not endorsed by this television station.