Now that the fall season is upon us, it’s time get ready for all the fall sports we love. With kids busy in sports like football, soccer, volleyball, cheerleading and swim, there are likely to be lots of nights and weekends full of cheering on the sidelines. There are also likely to be some injuries from all this activity. Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to ensure your kids are safe as they get ready for the sports season. Here are some of the most common sports-related injuries and what you can do to manage them.
What can go wrong while playing sports?
- Acute injuries
- These are the most common sports-related injuries, especially in high-impact sports like football and soccer. They occur suddenly and manifest into sprains, strains, and bruises that last a short while. Kids can also injure their growth plates, which are un-calcified areas that allow bones to grow longer as they grow up.
- Over-use Injuries
- These are injuries that occur gradually over time. Unlike acute injuries, which the body can heal between episodes of activity, an over-use injury can take time and management to properly heal. Examples include shoulder injuries from swimming, wrist injuries from cheerleading and knee damage from track and field.
- Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury that can result from collision, rotational forces and acceleration. Concussions are diagnosed based on symptoms, such as persistent headache, nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound, confusion and memory problems. Concussions aren’t always easy to detect, so see a doctor when in doubt.
How can you prevent injuries?
There are several steps that can be taken to prevent sports-related injuries:
- Wear appropriate protective equipment, such as helmets or shin guards.
- Keep up regular practice. This is crucial to develop the appropriate form and the physical fitness needed to safely participate.
- Participate in a variety of sports throughout the year instead of one sport year round. Take breaks between seasons.
- Be aware of environmental factors, such as cold weather in the fall and winter months, and wear the appropriate equipment.
What should be done when a sports-related injury occurs?
Stop! Continuing the activity can cause further harm. Sometimes it’s not clear whether a sports-related injury has occurred, but it’s always smart to take a break just in case. It is likely a sports-related injury whenever there is severe pain, swelling, numbness or weakness. Some minor injuries can be addressed on the spot, but it’s a good idea to seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or persist.
What are some treatment options that can be tried at home?
An easy way to remember is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest at home and stabilize the injured area in a comfortable position. Apply ice for at least 20 minutes, four to eight times per day, and do not apply ice directly to the skin. Compression, such as with an elastic bandage, may help reduce swelling. Never stretch out an elastic wrap when applying, as the dressing can be tight and painful. Finally, keep the injured area elevated on a supported surface above the level of the heart to prevent swelling.
When to return to play?
It is safe to return to play once symptoms have resolved. With joint problems, there should be no pain or swelling in the joint. Check that there is full movement and normal strength. For concussions, athletes should be symptom-free and cleared by a medical provider to return to play. Once your child is healed and ready, feel free to send them out to play again!