Each day, about 8,000 American children on average are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sports- and recreation-related injuries.
"Sports injuries usually occur while children are participating in organized sports competitions, training sessions or other fitness activities," explained Pediatrician Laurie Penix, M.D. "There are two general types of sports injuries in children. The first type is an acute traumatic injury, which usually involves a blow from a single application of force, such as when getting tackled in football or diving for homeplate."
Acute Traumatic Injuries:
- Fracture: A crack, break or shattering of a bone.
- Contusion: A bruise caused by a direct blow, which may cause swelling and bleeding in muscles and other body tissues.
- Strain: A stretch or tear of a muscle or tendon.
for All Sports
- Get a pre-season physical examination and be in proper physical condition.
- Follow the rules of the sport.
- Wear protective gear and know how to properly use athletic equipment.
- Always warm up before playing and cool-down afterwards.
- Avoid playing when very tired or in pain.
- Maintain proper hydration through intake of adequate water or other liquids.
- Sprain: A stretch or tear of a ligament that supports and strengthens joints.
- Abrasion: A scrape.
- Laceration: A cut in the skin that is usually deep enough to require stitches.
"The second type of sports injury is an overuse or chronic injury," Dr. Penix continued. "Chronic injuries are those that happen over a period of time, and are usually the result of repetitive training, such as running, throwing, or hitting a ball over and over again. If left untreated, a chronic injury will probably get worse over time. Overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students."
- Stress fractures: Tiny cracks in the bone's surface often caused by repetitive overloading, such as continuously jumping on a hard surface.
- Tendinitis: Inflammation of the tendon caused by repetitive stretching.
- Epiphysitis or Apophysitis: Growth plate injuries, like Osgood-Schlatter disease.
Sports injuries can occur on many parts of the body, such as the head, back and feet.
Head and Neck Injuries: Head injuries include concussions, contusions, fractures, and hematomas. These types of head and neck injuries occur most often in athletes who participate in contact sports like football, or sports with the potential for falling like horseback riding.
"A concussion is a violent jarring or shock to the head that causes bruising to the brain," Dr. Penix advised. "Concussions can cause lasting or permanent brain damage, especially if a second injury occurs before the brain has had a chance to heal. It is very important that if parents suspect their child has a concussion, the child should not return to play until he or she has been cleared by a medical professional.
"A hematoma is a bleeding or pooling of blood between the tissue layers covering the brain or inside the brain. All of these injuries can be caused by impact to the head from a fall, forceful shaking of the head, a blow to the head or whiplash. Whiplash is an injury to the neck caused by an abrupt jerking motion of the head.
"Neck injuries are among the most dangerous and include strains, fractures, contusions, and sprains. Another very common sports-related neck injury is a stinger or burner from stretched nerves in the neck. Most neck injuries are caused by an impact to the head or neck sustained during a fall or a blow. Too much strain on the neck can also cause an injury that has increasing pain or pain that occurs upon movement."
Back Injuries: Back injuries include sprains, fractures, contusions, stress fractures and strains; and are caused by twists or overexertion of back muscles during bending or lifting movements. These injuries can occur in contact sports like football and hockey, or in other types of sports like weight lifting, skating, gymnastics, baseball and basketball.
Hand and Foot Injuries: Hand, finger, and wrist injuries include fractures, dislocations and sprains; and occur in many sports, like volleyball, baseball, football or hockey. Hand injuries can result from a fall that forces the hand or fingers backward, or from a forceful impact or direct blow to the hands.
Foot injuries are also common since the feet support the body's weight and must absorb a great deal of force. These injuries can include ligament strains, stress fractures, heel bruises and swollen growth plates.
Taking Care of Sports Injuries
One of the first things to do when you suspect your child is injured is to stop playing whatever sport has caused the injury and check with a physician. "Parents are their child's best advocate and should be reminded that if a child appears confused or dazed after a head injury, the child should be immediately removed from play to reduce the risk of a further injury," Dr. Penix concluded. "In addition, if your child experiences pain from an injury that progressively increases with activity or causes swelling, limping, numbness, or loss of flexibility and range of motion, check with a physician as soon as possible."
"It is also helpful for parents to know the difference between soreness and chronic pain. Soreness is temporary, but chronic pain continues over a greater length of time. For example, it's not always necessary to see a doctor right away if your child's knee or shoulder is sore, but you should schedule an appointment if the pain continues to worsen or if it persists for a week or more. The child should also see a doctor if the pain progresses from happening only after playing the sport to occurring during the sport, or if the pain is noticeable when the child wakes up or is doing daily activities."
Pediatrician Laurie Penix, M.D., is affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's active medical staff. Her office is located at the Salem Pediatric Care Center, which is in the Salem Medical Arts Building, Suite C, 2020 East State Street, in Salem, 330-332-0084.