For many children, sports are a practical and fun way to stay healthy and active. However, sports injuries are responsible for almost a third of all childhood injuries. So finding a way for kids to get the most out of sports while staying safe is important to many parents.
Christine Boyd, MD, medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, offers her expert advice for the best ways to help young athletes reach their peak performance and avoid injury.
According to Dr. Boyd, it’s a good way to start exercising. Start slowly with family walks, Frisbee games, cycling or walking in the weeks leading up to school. Jumping right into a strict sports schedule after a relaxing summer can make kids more prone to injuries. “One of the most important things parents can do is to gradually increase children’s activity levels,” advises Dr. boyd.
Another thing to consider is how many sports your child will participate in each year. Keeping up with a demanding exercise schedule can be a strain on your child. “Particularly in times of rapid growth, children are at an increased risk of injury,” explains Dr. Boyd out.
“If you have a child going through a growth spurt, be extra careful not to overload them with the volume of sports practices and games because their injury rate is much higher,” she says. Kids who play hard also need plenty of sleep and good nutrition to give their bodies time and fuel to recover after a long day.
Keeping it fun for the kids is vital, especially for younger kids who may not be ready to appreciate the competitive nature of sport. “I like that they exercise a lot and make sure their environment they are in is positive, as opposed to a super intense and competitive sport for a 5-year-old,” she says. “I think they need to move their bodies in a lot of different ways because they’re still developing their basic movement skills, and you don’t want to isolate just one set of movement patterns in one sport.”
A sports physiotherapist with your child’s pediatrician is another way to help them prepare for their favorite sport. This visit can be combined with an annual wellness exam and is often required before attending school or participating in organized sports teams. The doctor will use this time to assess your child’s overall health and identify any problems that may be a risk factor for injury. “Those are usually done a month or two before a child starts exercising, especially so that if an intervention is needed, we have time to do it,” says Dr. boyd.
While younger children tend to sustain minor injuries such as scrapes and bruises, the stakes increase as children get older. “As we go into high school and high school, there are usually more joint sprains, muscle strains, and some overuse injuries due to their volume,” she says.
According to Dr. Boyd can help parents be on the lookout for warning signs if they know what injuries are common in each sport. “For baseball players, swimmers, or overhead athletes, we see a lot more shoulder and elbow problems,” she says. “For other sports, such as football, basketball or soccer, we will see more ankle and knee injuries just because of the stress of the sport.”
In contact sports such as soccer, football or basketball, parents should also be aware of the risk of concussion. “Sport-related concussions are clearly a hot topic and an important one that we all need to consider,” emphasizes Dr. boyd. “Over the past five years, there has been a major increase in public awareness about the injury and how to treat and recognize it.”
If your child shows symptoms of a concussion — dizziness, headache, blurred vision, fatigue, brain fog, or difficulty walking — call your pediatrician right away. dr. Boyd explains that some children don’t show symptoms until several hours to a day later. “Even the next day, if they wake up and have a headache, think back to the game: Was there anything in the game that was a big tackle, a big contact, that could have led to a concussion?” she says.
Even with the best precautions, your child could still be injured at some point. dr. Boyd recommends watching for swelling, worsening pain, and decreased range of motion in the joints. “My rule of thumb is that if something is very deformed or so painful that ice and ibuprofen at home won’t cut it, you should probably go to the emergency room or emergency room on the weekend,” she says. say. “Other than that, it can wait until next week and can be seen by your primary care physician.”
Bruises, mild sprains, and other minor injuries can usually be treated at home, Dr. boyd. “Icing in the first 48 hours with gentle compression are the two things that can help the most,” she explains. “If someone has a minor injury and they go back to sports too soon and they don’t let it heal completely, that’s another risky time for injury.”
It’s always a good idea to contact your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about an injury. They can refer you to the best treatment and help if your child needs more specialized care. “Most sports injuries can be seen by the pediatrician initially, and if a pediatrician feels it should be seen by a specialist, I think a pediatric orthopedics and sports medicine specialist offers many benefits,” says Dr. boyd. .
For more information about sports injuries, go to “Treating a Minor Sports Injury” or “Sports Injury Prevention”.