Sports injuries can temporarily sideline athletes
James Rogers, M.D.
There are numerous benefits to having kids participate in sports. They learn about teamwork, discipline, leadership and social skills. Sports are a source of fun and friends. In addition, sports can get kids up off the couch and onto the field, improving their physical skills and physical fitness.
But any sport or physical activity carries a potential for injury. You can decrease the likelihood of sports injuries by taking preventative measures when participating in sports.
These include using safety equipment (such as helmets or pads) and making sure that the safety equipment fits properly. The environment or playing field should be free from obstacles, ruts or other factors that could cause kids to trip and fall. Adult supervision can ensure that kids don’t take unnecessary risks that could result in injury. Keeping kids hydrated and well rested – on and off the field – makes sports injuries less likely. Finally, kids should warm up and cool down before and after a sporting event.
Types of sports injuries
Despite your best preventative measures, sports injuries can still occur. The most common sports injuries fall into three categories: acute, overuse and reinjury.
Acute injuries occur suddenly – after a fall, collision or other source of trauma. Examples of acute injuries are sprains, bone fractures, torn ligaments, concussion and eye injuries (such as detached retina and scratched corneas).
Overuse injuries occur from repetitive actions that put stress on joints, bones and muscles. Often the first indication of an overuse injury is a seemingly minor symptom, or warning sign. Paying attention to warning signs can eliminate a more serious injury down the road. Some warning signs include:
Joint pain (especially in the knee, ankle, wrist or elbow), tenderness at a specific spot in your bone, muscle or joint, swelling, reduced range of motion, weakness, numbness and tingling.
In general, these warning signs should never be ignored. Your goal is to prevent further injury. This can be accomplished by stopping the activity that is causing it and providing immediate treatment. Some treatment can be done at home. This includes the R.I.C.E. method to decrease pain and swelling outlined below.
Numbness and tingling are symptoms that could indicate nerve compression, a serious injury that requires the attention of a physician.
Reinjury occurs when an athlete returns to a sport before a previous injury has sufficiently healed. It is important that all injuries heal completely before resuming activity in a sport. In many cases, you’ll want to get a physician’s okay before getting back into the game. When reentering a sport, do so gradually, and make sure to properly warm up and cool down before and after exercise.
Treating sports injuries
The first treatment for injury that involves swelling (most sports injuries do) is known as the R.I.C.E. method. “R” stands for Rest. Stop the physical activity and rest.
“I” indicates Ice. Apply ice to the injury for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Allow the area to warm completely before applying ice again. Repeat from four to eight times in 24 hours.
“C” is compression. Compression of an injured body part (knee, ankle or wrist) with may help reduce swelling. Do not wrap the injury too tightly. Doing so can decrease blood flow to the site.
Finally, “E” is elevation. Keep the injury elevated above the heart. Use a pillow to cushion and elevate an injured arm or leg.
If home treatment of a sports injury does not decrease symptoms within 48 hours, contact your health care professional. You may need to make an appointment to see your physician.
Research shows that kids who play sports benefit in many ways. They are more likely to have a positive body image and are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors such use of drugs and alcohol. They have higher academic success. Sports relieve stress while helping kids develop teamwork, discipline and leadership skills. Finally, exercise increases quality of life. Children who exercise are more likely to continue the practice into adulthood. Healthy kids grow into healthy adults.
No one wants to let a sports injury get in the way of all these positive outcomes. Work to decrease sports injuries by preventing them in the first place. If an injury does occur, stop the activity immediately and seek appropriate treatment. And, most importantly, have fun out on the field, court or wherever your sport of choice takes you.
Dr. Rogers is a board certified family practice physician at Raiter Clinic