How To Keep Kids Safe and In The Game

BarsiJames Barsi, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Regular sports activity is great for kids, but their growing bodies can make them more susceptible to sports injuries than adults. Sports injuries can occur due to lack of conditioning, poor technique or overtraining. Here, Dr. Barsi discusses how to keep your kids safe while active in their chosen sports. Dr. Barsi is board certified in orthopaedic surgery and specializes in all pediatric orthopaedic care including scoliosis, fractures and growth plate injuries, as well as pediatric sports medicine.

Are youth sports injuries increasing?
Nearly 30 million children and teenagers play organized sports in the United States. With increased participation, we are also seeing  more sports-related injuries. Nearly 4 million kids under age 14 receive treatment for sports injuries each year. Some injuries are avoidable. Overuse injuries account for nearly half of the injuries in middle school and high school athletes.

What are some of the differences between pediatric and adult athletes?
Children’s bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments are still growing. This can increase the risk of injury. Children’s bones grow at a growth plate. Many of the long bones of the extremities (arm bones, thigh bones and leg bones) have more than one growth plate. This area is made of rows of cartilage and is weaker than regular bones, ligaments and tendons. Injuries that may produce a minor sprain or strain in adults can produce a fracture through the growth plate in children. These growth plate fractures or injuries can lead to growth abnormalities.

What are some tips to prevent injury?

  • Warm-up” and “cool-down” prior to practice and play.
  • Stretch before and after practice and play.
  • Stretching involves going just beyond the point of resistance and should not include bouncing. Stretches should be held for 10-15 seconds.
  • Stay hydrated, especially during the warm summer months.
  • Teach your athlete not to overtrain or “play through the pain.” He or she should listen to their body and decrease training time or take a break if they have pain. 
  • If possible, your child should play multiple positions to learn different skills and the roles of different players, especially when first starting a sport. Your child should be encouraged to play other sports or cross-train during the “off-season”. This will help decrease overuse injuries and develop other skills while maintaining fitness. 

What are overuse injuries?
Overuse injuries in children are aches, pains and sometimes even broken bones that result from repeated motions like throwing, running and kicking. There are many benefits to children who participate in regular sports and exercise. These include both physical  and emotional well-being. Greater confidence, concentration, social skills, team building  and overall health are all seen in children  and young adults who participate in sports and exercise regularly. Young people who exercise are more likely to be healthier. Pediatric orthopaedic surgeons  are dedicated to helping young people  remain active.

So how much is too much?
A good rule of thumb is that if it hurts it is probably too much for the growing body. Aches and pains should be evaluated by a physician before encouraging a young person to continue to play. A persistent limp or swelling, pain that occurs while at rest or during the night indicates a need to see a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon. Early assessment and treatment can help to prevent growth abnormalities, as well as pain and injury both now and later in life, and will help keep your child active and involved in their favorite sports and activities.

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