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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.

Types of Sports Injuries

Two types of injuries occur in kids' sports: acute and overuse.

Acute injuries are caused by a sudden trauma and include bruises, sprains, strains, and fractures. They often occur when an athlete falls, twists an ankle, or collides with another player. "How the player is handled immediately following injury is important," says Almquist. "If there's an athletic trainer or medical professional on hand when an athlete suffers a concussion or other injury, their care can prevent a minor injury from becoming a major one."

Repetitive motion and specialization in a single sport, instead of playing various sports according to the season, account for most overuse injuries. A prime example is "Little League Elbow," a term for an injury resulting from throwing in various sports, not just baseball. Also common are tears in tissue where tendons attach to the leg bone or heel bone.

An overuse injury shows up as a nagging pain that doesn't go away and will gradually get worse over time, Almquist tells WebMD. "If your kid keeps complaining, get a professional evaluation."

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, signs that your child should see an orthopaedic surgeon include:

  • Inability to play following an acute or sudden injury
  • Decreased ability to play because of chronic or long-term complications following an injury
  • Severe pain from acute injuries, which prevent the use of an arm or leg
  • Visible deformity of the arms or legs

What Parents Can Do to Promote Safety

"Prepare" is an online safety training course developed by NATA and NCSS for coaches and parents. "Parents can take our course or a course locally through the Red Cross," Morin tells WebMD. "We're not teaching how to provide care as much as how to prevent and recognize emergency situations and know what to do until professional help arrives on the scene."

NCSS and NATA have developed separate but similar safety guidelines including:

  • Have an emergency plan. The plan should include who is responsible for providing first aid, how parents will be notified of an injury, emergency phone numbers, and a list of each student's medical conditions readily available at all practices and games. An emergency plan needs to be comprehensive, detailed, and distributed to every coach.
  • Use qualified allied health professionals. A NATA certified athletic trainer or another qualified allied health professional should be on staff to provide education, immediate care, treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries.
  • Have a team physician/consulting physician. Schools should have a team physician who knows sports medicine.
  • Require pre-participation physicals. Annual physicals should be required for sports participation.
  • Keep up to date medical alerts. Every team and league should require a medical alert form for players. Guidelines should be in place so that treatment for conditions such as asthma or anaphylaxis is readily available to be administered when needed. "Parents have a responsibility to tell the coach if their child has a medical condition, such as asthma, diabetes, or pre-existing injury," says Morin. "And the child needs to carry an inhaler or emergency sugar resource or insulin. Getting ready for practice, it's easy to forget those things."
  • Group kids in youth leagues according to size. "This is most important in contact sports," says Morin. "An 8-year-old who weighs 60 pounds shouldn't be playing against a 10-year-old who weighs 120 pounds."
  • Weather protocol. Guidelines should be in place in the event of lightning or extreme heat. "No child should die as a result of lightning or heat exposure," says Morin. "It's totally preventable."
  • Education of coaches. Coaching staff should be required to have ongoing education in coaching techniques, CPR, and first aid. "Coaches who haven't had safety training in the last five year are not up to date," Almquist says.
  • Keep first aid kits on hand. "If a child has severe bleeding, does someone know how to use the kit?" Morin asks.
  • Conditioning programs. Supervised pre-season, in-season, and out-of-season conditioning programs should be available to all student athletes.

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