Childhood Sports Injuries and Their Prevention (cont.)

And don't forget to include sunscreen and a hat (where possible) to reduce the chance of sunburn, which is actually an injury to the skin. Sun protection may also decrease the chances of malignant melanoma--a potentially deadly skin cancer--or other skin cancers that can occur later in life. It is also very important that your child has access to water or a sports drink to stay properly hydrated while playing.

Treat Injuries With "RICE"

If your child receives a soft tissue injury, commonly known as a sprain or a strain, or a bone injury, the best immediate treatment is easy to remember. "RICE" (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) the injury. Get professional treatment if any injury is severe. A severe injury means having an obvious fracture or dislocation of a joint, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain.

RICE

  • Rest: Reduce or stop using the injured area for 48 hours. If you have a leg injury, you may need to stay off of it completely.
  • Ice: Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 8 times per day. Use a cold pack, ice bag, or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice that has been wrapped in a towel.
  • Compression: Compression of an injured ankle, knee, or wrist may help reduce the swelling. These include bandages such as elastic wraps, special boots, air casts and splints. Ask your doctor which one is best.
  • Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.

Sprains And Strains

A sprain is an injury to a ligament--a stretching or a tearing. One or more ligaments can be injured during a sprain. A ligament is a band of tough, fibrous tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint and prevents excessive movement of the joint. Ankle sprains are the most common injury in the United States and often occur during sports or recreational activities. Approximately 1 million ankle injuries occur each year and 85 percent of these are sprains.

A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon. A muscle is a tissue composed of bundles of specialized cells that, when stimulated by nerve impulses, contract and produce movement. A tendon is a tough, fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. For more, please read the Strains and Sprains article.

Growth Plate Injuries

In some sports accidents and injuries, the growth plate may be injured. The growth plate is the area of developing tissues at the end of the long bones in growing children and adolescents. When growth is complete, sometime during adolescence, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone. The long bones in the body are the long bones of the fingers, the outer bone of the forearm, the collarbone, the hip, the bone of the upper leg, the lower leg bones, the ankle, and the foot. If any of these areas become injured, seek professional help from a doctor who specializes in bone injuries in children and adolescents (pediatric orthopaedist).