We North Texans love our sports, and around these parts, boundless sporting opportunities exist for kids of all ages.
While sports offer kids opportunities for fun, exercise and teamwork, they also present the possibility of injury.
As a parent of three very active boys involved in a number of sports, I have seen my share of sports injuries. In my short 10 years of parenting, my boys have had stitches, broken bones, black eyes, and plenty of sprains and strains.
Each year, more than 38 million U.S. children and teens participate in some form of organized sports. One quarter of all kids participating in sports is injured, and generally, one in four of these injuries is considered serious. The most common injuries are sprains and strains.
No single sport is to blame for the increase in children’s sports injuries. But many doctors and medical experts believe that parents’ decision to place a child in one sport year-round or to allow children to play several sports at the same time contribute to injuries caused by children overusing their growing bones, muscles and ligaments.
“Any sport can produce an overuse injury,” explains Dr. Michael Adams, from OrthoTexas Physicians and Surgeons. “Overuse injuries are increasing in recent years as kids today are participating in additional and multiple sports at a time, and they are also expected to perform at higher competitive levels at much earlier ages.
“Many children are playing one sport year-round while still participating in three other sporting activities, never allowing children to have a day off,” Adams says. “Kids are not getting enough time for their bodies to recover from play time.”
Dr. Todd Burton, from All About Children Pediatrics, adds that overuse injuries may be a re-injury to a certain area that hasn’t healed completely as the child returned to the sport too early or played through the pain.
“We also see children who have improper training or conditioning, may not be fully developed physically for their sport or have immature ligaments, tendons and bones,” Burton says.
Adams says his office used to see kids play one sport, like football or soccer, and then take a break when the season was over before trying something different, such as basketball.
Today, kids play two and often three sports at once, and because of overuse injuries, “many children experience fracture or inflammation of the growth plates, or the soft tissue inside the bone area,” he says. “Because these areas are still growing, the bone isn’t calcified or hardened and is more vulnerable for injury.”
Other common overuse injuries occur in a joint or specific area, such as the front of the knee or heel. Swelling is common and other symptoms may include inflammation at the site of the injury.
“Depending on the severity of the injury, symptoms can be managed with ice and anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, but in most cases rest is required, and many times, complete rest for several weeks,” Burton says. “Some cases also benefit from formal physical therapy and rehab.”
To prevent injuries, parents can implement a few principles that will allow their children to safely participate in the sports they love:
First, parents should be willing to place sports on the back burner if their child is injured.
“They should listen to their child if they are injured, both by observing them through body language and facial expressions as well as [listening to] what the child is actually saying,” Burton explains. “Pain is a sign of injury, and rest may be needed.”
Additionally, parents as well as children should learn the sport – including how to perform certain skills – and parents should let their child’s body “grow into” their sport.
“Parents, coaches and players need to have proper expectations for different ages and skill levels,” Burton notes.
Parents should ensure their children have the proper training through coaches, teachers and trainers.
Adams explains: “Kids need to stretch before beginning a sport, as their bones are growing so quickly. Ligaments, attached to the bones, are more prone to injury, and need to be stretched out. A proper trainer or coach should understand the make-up of a child’s body and ensure the care of the child is the top priority.”
Finally, parents must remember that sports should be fun for kids.
Burton concludes: “We should allow our children to experience a variety of sports while clearly defining the measurements of success for the child. Take pride and have contentment in your child’s enjoyment of and participation in their sport, and take note of whatever level of accomplishment they achieve.
“They all won’t make the Olympics – in fact, very few will get there – so parents, back off the pressure throttle a bit,” Burton says. “I think parents will be surprised and find we all have much happier kids (and parents) if we do.” For more information about OrthoTexas, go to orthotexas.com.
For more information about All About Children Pediatrics, go to aacpediatrics.com. To find other pediatricians and sports injury doctors, go to McKinneyChamber. com and click on “Business Directory.”
About the author: Carolyn Cameron is a local marketer and freelance writer who is a frequent contributor to McKinney Magazine. She enjoys spending time with her three young boys and family, reading and running.