For many children, sports are a big part of childhood. Sports can help kids exercise, learn team-building skills, and have fun. Unfortunately, along with all the fun can come a lot of injuries. In fact, Stanford Children’s Health reports that more than 3.5 million injuries occur annually among the more than 30 million youth athletes who participate in organized sports in the United States.
The good news is there are many things children can do to avoid getting injured. In this blog, Margaret Lubega, MD, of First Pediatric Care Center in Gastonia, North Carolina, explains the most common childhood injuries and how they can be avoided.
Overview of childhood injuries
Because of their developing bodies and lack of coordination, kids are somewhat accident-prone. Kids don’t always have the ability to react quickly enough to avoid falling or getting hurt when they’re on the playing field or skateboarding with friends.
Lower extremity injuries are the most common, accounting for 42% of sports-related injuries in kids, while upper extremity injuries rank second at 30%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many childhood injuries are the result of a sudden collision, twist, or fall. These types of acute injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Ligament injuries (sprains)
- Muscle and tendon injuries (strains)
Only playing a single sport can lead to injury
Concentrating on the same activity all year, such as perfecting a tennis serve or pitching a baseball, can increase your child’s risk of suffering an overuse injury. These injuries typically require longer recovery times, and the damage may even require surgery.
About 50% of sports-related injuries in kids are the result of overuse. Some common types of overuse injuries include shin splints, anterior knee pain, swimmer’s shoulder, and lower back pain. Children can also develop “Little League shoulder” and “Little League elbow,” both of which occur at the growth plates and can jeopardize bone growth and development in those areas.
Protecting children from overuse injuries
To reduce the risk of overuse injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children take at least one month off from a sport at least three times a year and limit the play of one sport to no more than five days a week.
The AAP also advises parents to encourage their children to play different sports. Participating in different sports will not only help reduce overuse injuries, but it will help children develop different muscle groups.
Injuries can affect bone growth
Growth plates are vulnerable
Growth plates are discs of cartilage at the end of bones in children and adolescents. Bones grow as the cartilage cells in these discs increase and add length to the bones, making your child taller, for example. During puberty, the cartilage changes into solid bone and growth stops.
About half of growth plate injuries occur from playing contact sports, such as football, soccer, and basketball, or recreational activities, such as skiing and skateboarding. Depending on where acute injuries occur, they can cause damage to your child’s growth plates. And, if the growth plates become damaged, they can stop growing altogether.
Protecting growth plates
The best way to protect your child against acute injuries and possible growth plate damage is to take precautionary measures, including:
- Ensuring their sports gear fits and works properly
- Making sure they wear appropriate protective equipment
- Teaching them how to use and adjust their gear
- Encouraging them to take a break if they’re in pain
- Not allowing them to participate in risky activities
Encourage your kids to have fun, but instill in them that safety is their first priority.
To learn more about keeping your kids safe or to schedule a pediatric sports physical, book an appointment online or over the phone with First Pediatric Care Center today.