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Preventing Sports Injuries in Children

Preventing Sports Injuries in Children

Childhood sports injuries may be inevitable, but there are some things you can do to help minimize the risk. When injuries do occur, there are often things you can do on your own to treat them. First, focus on prevention.

Prevention

  • Enroll your child in organized sports through schools, community clubs, and recreation areas that are properly maintained. Any organized team activity should demonstrate a commitment to injury prevention. Coaches should be trained in first aid and CPR, and should have a plan for responding to emergencies. Coaches should be well versed in the proper use of equipment, and should enforce rules on equipment use.
  • Organized sports programs sometimes employ Certified Athletic Trainers. These individuals are trained to prevent, recognize, and provide immediate care for athletic injuries.
  • Make sure your child has--and consistently uses--proper gear for a particular sport. This may reduce the chances of being injured.
  • Make warm-ups and cool downs part of your child’s routine before and after sports participation. Warm-up exercises, such as stretching and light jogging, can help minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury during sports. Warm-up exercises make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible. Cool down exercises loosen muscles that have tightened during exercise.
  • Make sure your child has access to water or a sports drink while playing. Encourage him or her to drink frequently and stay properly hydrated. Remember to include sunscreen and a hat (when possible) to reduce the chance of malignant melanoma – a potentially deadly skin cancer – or other skin cancers that can occur later in life. 
  • Learn and follow safety rules and suggestions for your child’s particular sport. You’ll find some more sport-specific safety suggestions below.

Basketball

  • Common injuries and locations: sprains; strains; bruises; fractures; scrapes; dislocations; cuts; injuries to teeth, ankles, and knees (injury rates are higher in girls, especially for the anterior cruciate ligament, the wide ligament that limits rotation and forward movement of the shin bone)
  • Safest playing with: eye protection, elbow and knee pads, mouth guard, athletic supporters for males, proper shoes, water. If playing outdoors, wear sunscreen and, when possible, a hat.
  • Injury prevention: Strength training (particularly knees and shoulders), aerobics (exercises that develop the strength and endurance of heart and lungs), warm-up exercises, proper coaching, and use of safety equipment.

Track and Field

  • Common injuries: strains; sprains; scrapes from falls
  • Safest playing with: proper shoes, athletic supporters for males, sunscreen, water
  • Injury prevention: proper conditioning and coaching

Football

  • Common injuries and locations: bruises; sprains; strains; pulled muscles; tears to soft tissues such as ligaments; broken bones; internal injuries (bruised or damaged organs); concussions; back injuries; sunburn. Knees and ankles are the most common injury sites.
  • Safest playing with: helmet; mouth guard; shoulder pads; athletic supporters for males; chest/rib pads; forearm, elbow, and thigh pads; shin guards; proper shoes; sunscreen; water
  • Injury prevention: proper use of safety equipment, warm-up exercises, proper coaching techniques and conditioning

Baseball and Softball

  • Common injuries: Soft tissue strains; impact injuries that include fractures due to sliding and being hit by a ball; sunburn
  • Safest playing with: batting helmet; shin guards; elbow guards; athletic supporters for males; mouth guard; sunscreen; cleats; hat; detachable “breakaway bases” rather than traditional stationary ones
  • Injury prevention: proper conditioning and warm-ups

Soccer

  • Common injuries: bruises; cuts and scrapes; headaches; sunburn
  • Safest playing with: shin guards, athletic supporters for males, cleats, sunscreen, water
  • Injury prevention: aerobic conditioning and warm-ups, and proper training in “heading” (that is, using the head to strike or make a play with the ball)

Gymnastics

  • Common injuries: sprains and strains of soft tissues
  • Safest playing with: athletic supporters for males, safety harness, joint supports (such as neoprene wraps), water
  • Injury prevention: proper conditioning and warm-ups

Treatment

Treat Injuries with R.I.C.E.

  • Rest: Reduce or stop using the injured area for at least 48 hours. If you have a leg injury, you may need to stay off of it completely.
  • Ice: put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 8 times per day. Use a cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice that has been wrapped in a towel. 
  • Compression: Ask your child’s doctor about elastic wraps, air casts, special boots, or splints that can be used to compress and injured ankle, knee, or wrist to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.

Play It Safe in the Heat

  • Schedule regular fluid breaks during practice and games. Kids need to drink 8 ounces of fluid–preferably water–every 20 minutes, and more after playing.
  • Have your child wear light-colored, “breathable” clothing.
  • Make player substitutions more frequently in the heat.
  • Use misting sprays on the body to keep cool.
  • Know the signs of heat-related problems, including confusion; dilated pupils; dizziness; fainting; headache; heavy perspiration; nausea; pale and moist or hot, dry skin; weak pulse; and weakness. If your child experiences any combination of these symptoms or doesn’t seem quite right, seek medical attention immediately.

Safety Tips for All Sports

  • Be in proper physical condition to play the sport.
  • Follow the rules of the sport.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear (for example, shin guards for soccer, a hard-shell helmet when facing a baseball or softball pitcher, a helmet and body padding for ice hockey).
  • Know how to use athletic equipment.
  • Always warm up before playing.
  • Avoid playing when very tired or in pain.
  • Get a preseason physical examination.
  • Make sure adequate water or other liquids are available to maintain proper hydration.

Sources:
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
Information Clearinghouse
National Institute of Health

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