Dealing with kids' sport injuries

Boston Children's Hospital estimates that of the 30 million kids who play organized sports each year, . . .

Boston Children's Hospital estimates that of the 30 million kids who play organized sports each year, 3.5 million of those will sustain some type of injury. Kids' sport injuries are fairly common, with sprains and strains being the most common for little athletes. Worried about your budding soccer star or Little Leaguer? It's only natural. A particularly bad injury can leave your little one sidelined for an entire season. The trick to dealing with athletic injuries is to always follow doctor's orders. Ignoring medical advice could make the injury even worse. Here are some other ways you can ensure a healthy, full recovery.

Injury and safety issues. Just because an injury isn't outwardly noticeable doesn't mean it's not there. While sprains and strains are most common, other issues, such as dehydration and heat stroke, can also be an issue with children playing sports. In hot climates like those during the Atlanta summers, proper hydration and safety is a major issue. Make sure that your child is playing safely by offering plenty of water and rescheduling games and practices when it's hot and humid.

Also, ensuring that your child is properly suited for whatever sport he's playing can help reduce sport injuries based on improper gear. Making sure to have the right shoes, padding and uniform clothing is an important way to protect your little one.

Who to contact? Your child's coach is the one to turn to when you have worries about potential injuries. The coach can give you tips on injury prevention based on proper equipment, and you can voice your concerns about high temperatures or unsafe playing conditions to act as an advocate for your young athlete.

Practice the R.I.C.E. principle. For minor injuries that don't require immediate medical attention--meaning your child can put weight on the injured body part--practicing the R.I.C.E. principle can help minimize swelling, pain and recovery time. It stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation, which will help to get your little athlete back on his feet. It might be hard to keep your child down for a couple of days, but most first degree sprains are healed within one to three days of rest, so definitely keep your child off his injury to help heal him quickly.

Who to contact? If your child's injury is minor, resulting in mild pain but still the use of the limb, you won't need to contact a pediatrician. Usually, a couple of days rest, plus the R.I.C.E. method should be enough to heal up. You'll only need to call a doctor if your child is still in pain after three days or cannot put weight on the injured body part.

Check for major issues. A break or a second or third degree sprain is a more serious issue than an ankle twist. Both require more extensive healing time and a definite trip to the doctor. A second or third degree sprain results in the actual tearing of the ligaments surrounding the joint, so your child will need those ligaments to heal before hitting the field again. It's your job as a parent to seek a doctor's opinion and follow advice to make sure the healing process is quick and painless.

Who to contact? If your child is in a lot of pain or cannot put weight on the injured limb, it's time to make an appointment with your child's doctor. There, your doctor will check the extent of the injury and might also order an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a break. Regardless, your doc needs to check out the injury and give you an idea of the recovery time and process.

Consider physical therapy. A child who has sustained major sport injuries may require physical therapy as part of the recovery process. Physical therapy helps your child properly exercise an injury in order to regain full mobility. Physical therapy is rarely required for anything less than a second degree tear or break, so it's only applicable when your child's performance could be impacted by the lasting effects of a sports injury.

Who to contact? Your child's pediatrician will tell you whether or not physical therapy needs to be part of the recovery process and will likely recommend a pediatric therapist with experience in similar injuries. Your child will be required to go to therapy at regular intervals, anywhere from six weeks to even three months following the injury. You'll need to keep an open line of communication among yourself, your pediatrician and your physical therapist to ensure that the recovery is going well.

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