Preventing and Treating Kids' Sports Injuries
Each year, more than 3.5 million children under age 15 are treated in doctors' offices, walk-in clinics and hospital emergency rooms for sports-related injuries. According to data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, football and basketball consistently top the list of sports that cause the most injuries. However, even those sports felt to be "safe" (for example, volleyball and tennis) can cause injuries in children. So, parents can help to keep sports injuries to a minimum by first checking out our tips on prevention .
Kids' bones break more easily.
If a child does have an injury while playing sports, here's one of the most important things you need to know: While adults most often will tear a muscle or ligament when they fall or run into someone (or something), kids are far more likely to break a bone. In children, injuries that hurt and swell up should be considered broken bones until proven otherwise. There are important differences between adults and children that make children's bones more likely to break. A child's bones are young and softer, especially that part near the joint where the bone is still growing (the growth plate).
The growth plate isn't as strong as the rest of the bone, so it tends to be the weak link that breaks when an arm or leg or joint is stressed. In addition to breaking, the growth plate also can be damaged by using it too much or working it too hard, as in pitching a baseball (Little Leaguer's elbow) or leaping onto a balance beam (gymnast's wrist). While learning a sport, children also are still developing their coordination and other physical skills and may not use the best techniques or positioning, which increases the chance of injury. Don't ignore pain.
Although most children's sports injuries heal just fine with no long-term damage, some can be more serious. Ignoring pain or other serious signs or symptoms sometimes can cause permanent damage to a bone or joint. This can lead to premature arthritis and uneven or crooked bone growth.
Never "play through" pain.
Finally, it is most important that a parent or coach should never let (and definitely never force) a child to "play through" pain. Ice and over-the-counter pain-relievers can be used to ease minor aches and pains, but parents should be aware that these could sometimes cover up more serious conditions. Call your child's doctor if your child has any signs or symptoms of possible serious injuries.
Last updated September 6, 2011.