Jeremy Thurman on September 24, 2013
Kids and sports. For some, it’s their very lifeblood – but, having a child athlete can be one of the major triumphs of parenting, or it could be a huge cause for worry. And, rightly so. An article published recently in USA Today indicates that 1.35 million children a year sustain serious sports injuries. The vast majority are strains or sprains (about 451,480 diagnosed in ERs per year), followed by fractures and contusions or abrasions.
This is followed by concussions (163,670 per year), lacerations and dislocations. Of course, kids will be kids and they will suffer bumps and bruises whether they play competitive sports or not. But, there are kids arriving in emergency rooms for sports injuries that could be prevented. Also, bear in mind that these statistics are only for kids who are treated in emergency rooms; those who go to urgent care, their regular doctor, or who don’t seek treatment are not counted. Thus, actual numbers of injuries is likely significantly higher.
Concussions are most troubling. For one thing, nearly half of the kids seen in ERs for sports-related concussions in 2012 were between 12 and 15 years old. This is not good news; younger athletes take longer to heal from a concussion than older kids because their bodies are still growing. Also, multiple concussions later on can pose serious risks. Also, girls are statistically more likely to suffer a concussion than boys. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why that is, but they’re trying to figure out whether it’s attributable to biomechanics, genetics or differences in play. The highest concussion rates for both boys and girls were attributed to football, wrestling and cheerleading, respectively.
There are ways to prevent these injuries. One is to encourage your child to avoid overuse. Overuse injuries to tendons, bones and joints can be caused by performing the movements repetitively and too often, without allowing time to heal in between. One way to try to avoid this is to only allow your child to practice her sport for as many hours a week as she is old. For example, an 11-year-old who plays soccer should only engage in that activity for 11 or fewer hours per week.
Tips for sports safety:
Sports can be great for kids; they can teach discipline, hard work, ethics and teamwork. Of course, it goes without saying that participating on a team can also allow kids to make great friends and can be great fun! Being aware of sports injuries that are common to your child’s particular sport is very helpful, though, in preventing them. As a parent, it’s also important to have ongoing dialogue with your child and with the coach to be sure that everyone is being as careful as possible, while still having fun.