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Kids and Sports: How To Reduce Injury Risks

January 23, 2023

With any sport, there is a risk of injury. And younger athletes have more at stake. They are still growing, putting their bodies at greater risk of injuries with long-term complications.

Growth plates (areas of cartilage at the end of bones) make younger athletes particularly vulnerable, with weaker spots that can be damaged more easily. The same injury that might cause an adult to have a sprained ankle could cause a more serious fracture of a growth plate in a child. If not treated appropriately, these damaged plates can create long-term health issues related to bones not developing properly.

Your kids also have a lot more time available in which to play their favorite sports. That fact can significantly increase their risk of getting hurt. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the more common ways young people are injured – and how to reduce risk.

Most Common Sports Injuries

Overuse injuries are slow to develop, resulting from athletic motions and activities that are repeated over and over. These can be a problem not just for kids, but for anyone who puts their body through too much stress and strain while enjoying a favorite sport. A classic example of an overuse injury is the baseball pitcher who develops elbow pain from constant throwing.

Living in a mild climate presents an added level of risk, because there really is no such thing as an “off season.” Kids can play baseball, softball, soccer and other sports throughout the year, without the forced breaks experienced in areas with colder winters and snow.

Injury risk also increases by specializing in one sport, which deprives your body of an ability to learn and move through multiple movement patterns, making it less susceptible to injury.

There are many overuse injuries that can vary based on your sport.  Some examples include:

  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Shin splints
  • Stress fractures
  • Elbow throwing injuries
  • Jumper’s knee

Acute injuries are those that are new and sustained at a vulnerable time for the muscles, bones, tendons or ligaments. Often these can be attributed to nothing more than bad luck. However, your child’s chosen sport can have a significant impact on the types of acute injuries that might be encountered. For example, gymnasts may be more likely to suffer upper body injuries, while soccer players are more likely to have lower body injuries.

Among the common acute injuries:

  • Sprained ligaments
  • Strained muscles and tendons
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts
  • Bruises

There was a time when concussions were not considered all that serious. But in recent years, research has shown how dangerous they can be for an athlete’s brain health. It’s important for parents to know that concussions can happen in both contact and non-contact sports. It’s common to think of them as something that occurs when football or soccer players collide. But they also can be caused by a sudden or forced change in direction. Direct head contact is not needed to get a concussion.

Parents should keep an eye on their children for symptoms, including:

·      Unexplained headaches

·      Difficulty concentrating

·      Sleeping more than normal

·      Mental fogginess

·      Unusual moodiness

·      Sensitivity to light and sound

What Can You Do to Reduce Injury Risk?

There is no surefire way to keep your children free of sports injuries. But there are things you can do and encourage them to do to make them safer. For starters, be sure they’re getting proper sleep, hydration, and nutrition. Be certain that they appropriately rehab any previous injury before getting back into sports. Otherwise, they risk reinjury or injuring something else while compensating for the past injury.

But one of the most important things is for you to take stock of your child’s sports life. For example, is your child a baseball player taking part in multiple travel teams, with four- and five-game tournaments every weekend? These sorts of intense never-ending schedules can become a problem with overuse injuries.

Reducing the frequency of games and practice can go a long way toward cutting injury risk. Cross training can also be beneficial.

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