Hey batter, batter, swing! That’s right, it’s time for the annual explosion of youth sports that ramps up in spring and marches on through the dog days of summer. So break out the cleats, tennies, hiking boots, ballet slippers, aqua socks and whatever else kids are wearing these days to get their sports on.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends kids and teens get active for 60 minutes daily and during this time of year that shouldn’t be too difficult. What might be harder is finding an activity that your child likes and ensuring she doesn’t become one of the more than 2.6 million children who end up in the emergency room each year with sports-related injuries. But hey, no worries — we’re here to help you do both.
Play it safe.
No matter what activity your child chooses, there are things you can do to help keep him safe.
- Use proper equipment. Equipment and safety gear should be in good condition and approved by the organizations that govern each sport.
- Inspect practice and competition areas. They should be free of holes, ruts and debris. High-impact sports should be done on forgiving surfaces, such as grass, synthetic rubber or wood, rather than concrete.
- Insist on qualified adult supervision. The team coach should be trained in first aid and CPR, and all adults should place a high priority on safety.
- Make sure your child is prepared. In addition to understanding the rules of the game and how to warm up and train, kids need adequate rest, proper nutrition and plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Heat-related illnesses, including dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, are among the most common sports injuries — especially in hot spots like Texas.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
Now that your little slugger or soccer star is well rested and padded from head to toe, you can relax, right? Not quite. Injuries can occur despite the best preparation, so it helps to know what you might expect and what to do if the worst happens.
Acute (traumatic) injuries happen suddenly and are often caused by a lack of proper equipment or equipment misuse. These include:
- Broken bones and torn ligaments
- Bumps and bruises
- Eye injuries
- Heat-related injuries
- Scrapes and scratches
- Sprains and strains
Treatment for acute injuries ranges from mild (ice, fluids, or a bandage) to full-blown emergency care. A good rule of thumb is if an injury affects your child’s basic functioning in any way — she can’t bend her wrist, is limping, or has symptoms of a concussion — she should receive basic first aid and then see a doctor. For more serious injuries, take your child to the nearest ER.
Corey Gill, MD, medical director of the Pediatric Orthopedics Program at Medical City Children’s Hospital, discusses when a child should go to the ER with an orthopedic injury or possible broken bone.
Overuse injuries happen when repetitive actions put too much stress on muscles and bones. Bad enough in adult athletes, where they can shorten the most promising career, in children they are even more problematic because they can affect bone growth. Common overuse injuries include tennis and Little League elbow, shin splints, swimmer’s shoulder, anterior knee pain and persistent lower back pain, or spondylosis.
Overuse injuries can be caused or aggravated by:
- Growth spurts or an imbalance between strength and flexibility
- Improper warmup, technique or equipment
- An increase in activity or playing the same sport year-round or multiple sports during the same season
Overuse injuries are characterized by persistent pain and swelling. If your child complains of either of these symptoms, limit her activity until you can get her to a doctor — preferably a pediatric sports medicine specialist. It’s very important to diagnose and treat the issue before it becomes chronic and causes irreparable harm.
No “I” in team.
For kids who aren’t interested in conventional team sports, consider these DIY alternatives that can keep them fit for life.
- Biking is something most kids already enjoy. Picking it back up when you’re older? It’s like riding a bike.
- Geocaching is hide-and-seek with technology. Combine it with biking or hiking for a mental and physical challenge.
- Golf can be enjoyed from about the age of 6.
- Fencing develops discipline, coordination, reflexes, balance and strategic thinking and isn’t always won by the biggest or strongest kid.
- Martial arts are another great mental and physical exercise.
- Swimming is a fantastic cardio workout that can be done year-round.
The important thing is to guide your child in finding the right activity for his personality and then help him pursue it as safely as possible. It’s much easier to cheer him on when you know how to handle any injury, so you’ll be relieved to know Medical City Healthcare has 17 emergency locations with FastERTX average wait times posted online. Visit FastERTX.com to find the Medical City Healthcare ER nearest you.