When your child signs up for Little League, you know he'll come home with the occasional bump or bruise that you can easily treat with a little love and your first-aid kit. But do you know what to do if something more serious happens? Unfortunately, each year about 1.35 million kids end up in the ER from sports-related injuries. Find out how to keep your student athlete safe this school year with advice from The Children's Hospital at TriStar Centennial pediatric emergency medicine physician, Dr. Kristen Crossman.
1. Schedule a Sports Physical
Before your child laces up his cleats or sneakers, make sure he or she has a routine sports physical. “Your child’s pediatrician will perform an assessment to ensure that your young athlete is ready to go for the school year, or if there are some medical concerns that their coach will need to monitor,” said Dr. Crossman. It’s also the time where your kiddo can get the routine vaccines he needs.
2. Know What to Do
Next time your child gets hurt, be prepared. Here are four common sports-related conditions, their symptoms and treatment.
Sprains and Strains
What’s the difference? A sprain is an injury causing stretching or tearing to the ligament in the joint. A strain (a.k.a. pulled muscle) is an injury that causes stretching or tearing of the muscle. While strains are typically treated with rest, heat or cold, physical therapy can sometimes help, too. “Remember the acronym RICE - rest, ice, compression, elevation – for home treatment for your child to get back in the game,” said Crossman. In severe sprain cases, your child’s doctor may suggest surgery based on the location of the sprain and condition of the ligament.
Dr. Crossman says the best preventative measure is staying hydrated. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children consume six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration. “Kids generate more heat than adults, but they also sweat less, which can lead to heat exhaustion,” said Dr. Crossman. “Keep your young athlete hydrated before, during and after sports practice.”
Plain old H20 is fine for activities that last less than an hour; for longer activities, try electrolyte replacements like Gatorade G2 or Pedialyte.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness, headache, heavy sweating and cool, clammy skin. Move your child to a cool place and rehydrate. If symptoms don’t improve within 30 minutes, call their pediatrician.
Heat stroke is a serious condition that requires emergency care. Symptoms include hot, dry skin, a high fever, vomiting and possibly loss of consciousness. If your child shows these signs, take them to a pediatric ER.
A concussion happens when a blow to the head or other part of the body causes the brain to be jostled inside the skull. Symptoms include headache, dizziness and blurry vision; more severe signs include seizures and worsening headaches, as well as pronounced confusion or strange behavior.
If your child has had a possible concussion, they will need evaluated by a professional, either on the field or at the ER. Whether or not a hospital stay is required depends on the severity of the concussion.
The good news: Most concussion cases are mild, and symptoms usually go away after a week. The best treatment is rest. Your child should avoid watching TV or using tablets, computers and video games, which stimulate the brain and could cause concussion symptoms to reappear or worsen.
3. Coach Your Kid
Raising a young athlete is a team effort that includes the parents, coaching staff and doctors all teaching your child the importance of regular, safe sports practice, including strength-training, conditioning and flexibility.
“I believe the pros associated with being involved in sports outweigh the negatives. We want kids to have fun but not push themselves too hard, so please encourage your child to speak up when they think they are injured,” said Dr. Crossman.