How to Prevent Sports Injuries in Young Athletes

Doctors who study sports injuries in young athletes are concerned about our seeming unconcern.

Kids get hurt, right? It’s been part of the get-tough attitude that Americans have adopted since the first teams took the field. Now experts, parents, and coaches (and maybe even a few kids) are wondering how much of an epidemic is needed before we cry uncle!

A study conducted by Safe Kids Worldwide showed that 42 percent of kids said they’d hidden or downplayed an injury so they could keep playing. More than half of coaches said they’d felt pressure to send an injured player back to the game. Almost one-third of kids said it’s normal to play rough, to send a message to the other team.

Part of the problem, according to some sports professionals, is that coaches in youth sports tend to be volunteers. They don’t understand the dangers of a concussion, say. They bow to school and parental pressure to win at any cost.

Sports Injuries Should Be Seen Early By a Med Professional

Educators and others who work with young athletes say we need a new attitude towards the game.

Here are some suggestions for improving the young athlete’s conditioning as well as protecting him or her:

  • vary the activity (cross-train) to strengthen other muscles
  • take any injury seriously, even the most innocent-looking bump on the head
  • have high-school coaches take a course covering some of the dangers lurking on the playing field
  • recruit volunteer nurses, physical therapists and EMTs to attend and work at youth athletic events
  • make sure the child gets enough rest, as one study showed a higher risk among athletes who slept fewer hours the night before

Concussions are not the only dangers on the field or court. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that the growth plate can be injured in children. This is an area at the end of what’s called a long bone, that will eventually be replaced by solid bone.

There are long bones in

How to Prevent Sports Injuries in Young Athletes

  • the hands and fingers (metacarpals and phalanges)
  • both bones of the forearm (radius and ulna)
  • thigh bone (femur)
  • lower leg (tibia and fibula)
  • feet (metatarsals and phalanges)

Any injury to a long bone should be evaluated by an orthopedic sports medicine professional.

Conditions on the Playing Field May Overheat

Especially with this summer’s searing heat waves across much of the nation, dehydration is always a possibility.

Coaches and trainers should recognize the signs of heat exhaustion: nausea, dizziness, weakness, headache, low body temperature, pale and moist skin, dilated pupils, heavy perspiration, weak pulse, dilated pupils, disorientation or fainting spells.

Heat stroke might be signaled by headache, dizziness, confusion, hot dry skin, possibly leading to vascular collapse, coma and death, warns NIH.

Monitor the Organization and the Situation

Managers of kids’ sports teams should understand how to prevent and recognize injuries. Coaches need training in first aid and CPR, and need a plan in case of an emergency.

Children should have the proper gear for their sport, including helmets, cleats and other equipment. Cleats can make the difference between a slide, for instance, and an awkward fall.

Make sure the child warms up and cools down before and after practice or play. Warm-up makes tissues more flexible. Cool-down loosens muscles that tighten during exercise.

Remember to give your child water or a sports drink, especially if he or she is playing in the heat. Send them off with sunscreen and a hat.

In the case of a mild soft-tissue injury such as a strain or sprain, the mnemonic is REST: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

Any obvious fracture or dislocation, prolonged swelling or severe pain should prompt a call to our orthopedic clinic.