Kids and team sports: how to play it safe
By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth
It’s that time of year. The kids are in school and team sports are in full swing. Your child is having fun, learning the concept of teamwork, feeling the physical and mental benefits of exercise and making new friends.
Yet, it is estimated that each year, more then three million children are injured while playing sports.
Football causes the most sports injuries in children 18 and younger, followed by basketball. Other sports, including volleyball, cheerleading, soccer, gymnastics and field hockey cause thousands of injuries each year.
Teach your child how to prevent injury and get the most out of being part of the team.
Growth plate injuries
What may be a bruise to an adult can be a serious growth plate injury in a child. Growth plates are areas of developing tissue at the end of a child’s long bones. When your child has finished growing, the growth plates are replaced by solid bone. The long bones include those in the fingers, forearms, collarbone, hips, upper legs, lower legs, ankles and feet.
If any of these areas are injured, your child needs to see an orthopedic specialist. If not treated, growth plate injuries can cause lasting pain and prevent bones from growing properly.
Sprains and strains
About two thirds of children’s sports injuries are sprains and strains. Only about 5 percent of sports injuries involve fractures.
Overuse injuries are caused by repeated movements. The more time a child spends playing one sport, the more likely he or she is to develop an overuse injury. Overuse injuries include:
- Little League elbow. Pain in the elbow after following through on a throw.
- Swimmer’s shoulder. Pain in the shoulder after repeatedly making an overhead motion, like when swimming or throwing a ball.
- Shin splints. Pain in the shins after running on hard surfaces.
- Lower back pain caused by flexing and twisting. This is a common injury in soccer, football, weightlifting, gymnastics, wrestling and diving.
Returning to a sport without being fully healed puts your child at greater risk for getting injured again. Make sure your child is fully healed and cleared by his doctor before returning to the playing field.
Preventing sports injuries
The following precautions can help prevent injury:
- Adult supervision. Have a parent, coach or trainer with children at all times.
- Physical exam. Make sure your child is medically cleared to play sports.
- Proper conditioning. Help match your child’s skills with the sport that best suits him or her. Make sure your child has proper training and is placed with teammates with similar skill levels who are in the same weight range.
- Safety equipment. One out of five serious brain injuries in children is sports-related. Helmets should be worn for football, baseball, bike riding and hockey. To avoid eye injuries, children who play racquet sports and basketball should wear protective eyewear. Mouth guards, athletic cups and padding also provide protection.
- Safe playing surfaces. Make sure all debris is removed from the playing field and that equipment is inspected before play begins.
- Warm-ups. Have your child warm up, cool down and stretch. Don’t let him or her play more than one sport at a time. Doing so can cause overuse injury.
- Playing healthy. Make sure your child is fully healed from an injury or illness before letting him or her return to the team.
If your child is injured while playing sports, see your pediatrician for proper diagnosis and treatment.
- Children’s Safety Network. Sports safety. Accessed: 08/27/2009
- National Council of Youth Sports. National Council of Youth Sports and CDC team-up on Youth Sports Concussion Initiative. Accessed: 08/27/2009
- American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Fall back into team sports. Accessed: 08/27/2009
- American Academy of Pediatrics. 2009 Sports injury prevention tip sheet. Accessed: 08/27/2009
- Children’s Hospital of Boston. Sports injury statistics. Accessed: 08/27/2009
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Sports injuries. Accessed: 08/27/2009