Reducing Sports Injuries to Keep Kids Playing Safely
Now that the weather is warmer, kids are hitting the athletic fields and skate parks for some healthful exercise. Parents need to keep an eye on their children and help them prevent a nasty injury that could take them out of their favorite game.
"The first rule in sports safety is proper gear. This especially applies to footwear," says Jeffrey Bergin, DC, former dean of clinics at Lombard's National University of Health Sciences (NUHS). "Ankle sprains are the most common injury in the United States and often occur during sports or recreational activities. Approximately 1 million ankle injuries occur each year and 85 percent of these are sprains. The right shoes that fit can help reduce your child's chances of twisting an ankle."
Warm-up exercises, such as stretching and light jogging, can help minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury during sports. Warm-up exercises make the body's tissues warmer and more flexible. Cooling down exercises loosen the body's muscles that have tightened during exercise. Encourage "warm-ups" and "cool downs" as part of your child's routine before and after sports participation.
If your child receives a soft tissue injury, commonly known as a sprain or a strain, or a bone injury, the best immediate treatment is easy to remember: R-I-C-E (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation).
"Another often overlooked sports injury is heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration," says Dr. Bergin. "Heat injuries are always dangerous and can be fatal. Because children perspire less than adults and require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating, it's important to know the signs of heat exhaustion, which are: nausea, dizziness, weakness, headache, pale and moist skin, heavy perspiration, normal or low body temperature, weak pulse, dilated pupils, disorientation, fainting spells. The signs of heat stroke are headache, dizziness, confusion, and hot dry skin, possibly leading to vascular collapse and coma."
Tips to avoid heat-related injuries include:
Dr. Bergin concludes by reminding parents that exercise is beneficial. "Don't let the fear of injury stop you from letting your child lead an active life and participate in sports. Just make sure they have the proper training in the rules of the sports they're playing, and that they know how to use the equipment safely." "It helps to match the child to the sport," says Dr. Bergin. "If your child has a hard time running long distances, it may be counterproductive to push the track team. Finding a sport he or she truly enjoys will build good lifetime fitness habits and is worth the effort."
For more information on helping your child stay active, or for other questions regarding youth sports injuries, contact a National University of Health Sciences Whole Health Center.