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Keeping Kids Playing Injury-Free

More kids than ever are being sidelined by sports injuries; don't let your child be one of them.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Would you let your son or daughter ride in a car driven by an unlicensed, unqualified driver? Of course not. The inherent risks are obvious. Sports have inherent risks, too, yet every day parents drop their kids off for practices or games where there's no one trained to handle injuries.

To get an idea of the risks involved in youth and high school sports, identify the following statements as true or false:

  1. An athlete can collapse from dehydration in cool weather or while playing indoors.
  2. "Playing through the pain" can cause a minor injury to become serious.
  3. Many coaches in church leagues, schools, and independent youth sports organizations are not required to know first aid and CPR.
  4. Overuse injuries are more common than acute injuries. Insufficient rest after injury, poor training, and lack of conditioning are contributing factors.
  5. Most injuries occur during practices.
  6. The incidence of injuries requiring surgery is nearly as high for high school baseball and softball players as for football players.
  7. Children aged 5 to 14 account for nearly 40% of all sports related injuries treated in ERs.

If you answered "True" for all the questions you were correct.

To raise awareness about sports safety, the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recently ran a public service ad campaign, asking, "What will they have longer, their trophies or their injuries?" WebMD talked to two experts committed to raising safety standards for organized kids' sports so that "trophies" will triumph over "injuries."

Sports Injuries Spiking

In 2003, more than 3.5 million kids aged 5 through 14 engaged in organized or informal sports activities were treated for injuries, according to the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. That's up from 775,000 kids in 1995. Experts cite several reasons:

  • Growing number of organized sports for boys and girls of all ages and increased participation.
  • Organized sports attracting a generation of kids who have great finger dexterity from video games but lower cardiovascular health than previous generations of kids.
  • Specialization and year-round play in a single sport leading to overuse injuries like strains and Little League Elbow.
  • Parents pushing kids to excel. "Some parents are living through their kids, and 25% of parents expect their ninth graders will be pros," says Almquist, who is also athletic training specialist for the Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, Va.
  • Failure to rest after injury. "Some parents will doctor shop to find one who will clear their kid to play," says Almquist.
  • Parent volunteers not trained in proper coaching techniques or first aid.
  • Church and independent sports leagues without plans for events such as lightning or medical emergencies. "Whereas high school teams have a limited number of players and might employ an athletic trainer, church and independent leagues might have 300 to 500 players and no medical personnel," says April Morin, executive director of the National Center for Sports Safety (NCSS) in Birmingham, Ala.

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