Physical activity plays a significant role in improving a child’s well-being and promoting a balanced development with long-term benefits. In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the number of children and adolescents participating in sports.
Most recent data from the CDC estimates approximately 30 million children and adolescents are involved in sports. Unfortunately, a consequence of the increased popularity of sports are the injuries which come along with it due to the competitive nature encouraging children to train harder and longer.
The types of injuries sustained varies greatly on gender, age and type of activity. For example, twice as many boys sustain sports-related injuries than girls which may be related to boys being more aggressive or being involved in more contact sports.
For boys, sports involving contact and jumping have the highest injury levels with football accounting for most injuries followed by wrestling, basketball, soccer, and baseball. Among girls, the highest incidence of sports injuries occurred in soccer, followed by basketball, field hockey, softball, and volleyball.
Injuries in adolescents can be broken down into two categories: micro-trauma or macro-trauma. Micro-trauma injuries are associated with overuse and include stress fractures, osteochondritis dissecans, apophysitis, or tendinopathies. Macro-traumas are acute injuries such as fractures and sprains.
Sports injuries in children and adolescents can range from head trauma to ankle sprains. The vast majority of injuries involve the legs (70%), followed by the arms (25%), spine (3%), and head (2%).
Some of the more common lower extremity injuries include injuries to the knees or ankles such as ACL tears, meniscal tears, Osgood-Schlatter’s disease, ankle sprains, and fractures. Upper extremity injuries can include tendonitis of the shoulder, elbow, or wrist, shoulder dislocation or bursitis, and jammed fingers.
The type of injury sustained depends greatly on the sport played. For example, head and spine trauma are more common in football, gymnastics, and horse-back riding. Basketball and soccer are common causes of lower extremities injuries and baseball for upper extremities.
Unfortunately, injuries are an inherent risk in being physically active but if certain measures are taken than the risk can be reduced. Certain risk factors cannot be avoided such as age, gender, and previous injury but modifiable risk factors need to be identified and adapted for children or adolescents. These risk factors include the length of playing time, following rules, equipment used, and the type of playing surface.
There are many ways that parents can help prevent childhood injuries in sports:
1) Get a preseason physical.
2) Have a chat with your child telling them to let you know if something does not feel right or if they are in pain. Many children try to push through injuries or do not understand that addressing a potential injury early on will prevent further damage.
3) Have your child play a variety of sports. This will benefit the child in multiple ways, for example, they may find the sport they love and excel at. This will help with development by using different muscles and joints.
4) Have your child stretch and stress the importance of warming up. Use a combination of dynamic and static stretching. An example of static stretching would be touching your toes and jumping jacks would be an example of dynamic stretching.
5) Give adequate time to rest and for muscles to recuperate. Overuse injuries are the most common injuries in children.
6) Promote a well-balanced diet and adequate hydration.
7) Provide the proper equipment. This can be difficult for some parents due to costs, but there are options, such as purchasing used equipment.
8) Emphasize proper technique and following the rules.
9) Recognize injuries and get help if needed. Parents may notice their child limping or rubbing an arm, but they may not mention it because they want to continue playing. It is up to the parent to take the child out of the activity so they can rest. If the pain does not improve it may be helpful to see a doctor.
10) Most importantly, make sure your child is having fun!
Proper supervision by coaches and parents is a must to ensure safe playing conditions so children can experience the many social, psychological, and health benefits of being involved in sports.
Dr. Ahmad with Advanced Sports & Spine, PLLC focuses on patient centered pain management in Charlotte, NC.
Dr. Ahmad is a board certified physiatrist with subspecialty training in interventional sports and spine medicine. Dr. Ahmad completed his residency training in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital.
He then completed a fellowship in musculoskeletal medicine and interventional pain management at the Center for Advanced Pain Management and Rehabilitation in New Jersey.
Dr. Ahmad specializes in using both fluoroscopic and ultrasound-guided spine and joint injections, along with appropriate diagnostic testing to assist in the healing of his patients.