RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – More than 38 million children and adolescents are involved in organized sports in the United States each year and even more participate in informal recreational activities both at school and at home.
Sports participation provides lots of benefits—both physical and social. Sports and physical activity can also have a downside – the risk of sports-related injuries.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.6 million children zero to 19 years old are treated in the emergency department each year for sports and recreation-related injuries.
The most common injuries are strains/sprains, growth plate injuries, repetitive motion injuries, and heat-related injuries.
There are rare but devastating severe injuries associated with some sports such as spinal cord injures. These can be quite severe. Luckily, most injuries are relatively minor.
Strains are injuries to a muscle or tendon. Sprains are injuries to a ligament—which is a band of fibrous tissue that connects two bones together at a joint. . An ankle sprain is the most common athletic injury.
In some sports accidents and injuries, the growth plate may be injured. The growth plate is the area of developing tissues at the end of the long bones in growing children and adolescents. When growth is complete, sometime during adolescence, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone.
Common repetitive injuries include stress fractures (a hairline fracture of the bone that has been subjected to repeated stress) and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) can occur from overuse of muscles and tendons. These are becoming more common as some kids train year-round for sports such as baseball, tennis and golf. The injured area usually responds to rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Other treatments can include crutches, cast immobilization, and physical therapy.
Heat-related injuries occur when we do not take in enough fluids and athletes can become dehydrated. In extreme cases, athletes can develop heat stroke. This occurs when the body can no longer cool itself efficiently and this can be life threatening medical emergency.
In order to reduce injuries:
- Make sure your child has—and consistently uses—proper gear for a particular sport. This may reduce the chances of being injured.
- It is essential that you make warm-ups and cool-downs part of your child’s routine before and after sports participation. Warm-up exercises make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible. Cool-down exercises loosen muscles that have tightened during exercise.
- Keep your child hydrated before, during and after physical activity.
- Make sure that you have a pre participation history and physical exam with your pediatrician prior to participation in sports.