Summer is almost here in Western Washington and that means more time spent outdoors. Jason Brayley, MD, a Sports Medicine physician with MultiCare, wants to help parents prevent injuries to their children with a few simple precautions. (If you missed part one of this article, please see below.)
Injuries are common while playing sports. Below are some common childhood sports injuries:
Sprains and Strains: These injuries are very common in active children and adolescents. A sprain is an injury to a ligament, a tough and fibrous connection between two bones. Sprain injuries typically involve stretching or tearing of the ligament. A strain is an injury that occurs to a tendon, another type of connective tissue that connects muscle to bone. Sprains and strains are best treated with rest, icing, compression, and elevation of the effected area. While these injuries are typically minor and resolve quickly without seeking medical attention, if your child experiences any of the following, see a physician as soon as possible:
- Severe pain, inability to move or put weight on the injured area
- You cannot touch the injured area without severe pain
- Any lumps or bumps that look different than the uninjured side
- Buckling occurs when attempting to use an injured joint
- Numbness around the injured area
- Red color surrounding or streaking from the injured joint or foot
- Multiple injuries to the same area or joint
Growth Plate Injuries: All growing bones have an area called the physes, or “growth plate,” where special cells cause lengthening of bone in children and adolescents. These areas are very susceptible to injury, and can often mimic a simple sprain or strain. If a suspected sprain or strain is not improving within 48 hours, it could potentially be a more serious growth plate injury. All injuries to the growth plate may cause a problem with bone growth, therefore it is very important to have these injuries identified and treated early. The specific amount of injury to a growth plate can be determined with a basic x-ray. Most growth plate injuries that do not require surgery, do very well with immobilization of the area and appropriate time off before returning to active play. Girls may continue to grow late into their teens and boys through the early 20s, so it is always important to keep these potentially serious injuries in mind if your child is hurt while playing.
Repetitive Motion Injuries: Active children can be at risk for repetitive motion, or “overuse injuries,” the same as adults. All major joints of the body are at risk for developing repetitive motion injuries, although in children the shoulders, elbows, knees and ankles are most at risk. Overuse injuries may occur if your child participates in a specific sport or activity on a very regular basis. Pain will typically develop slowly over time, often getting to the point where playing is no longer possible. It is very important that children in organized sports learn proper techniques related to their sport in order to protect their growing bodies and avoid injuries that may prevent them from having fun and living a healthy lifestyle.
Heat Injuries: Heat tolerance is much lower in children than adults. Children have a reduced sweating capacity and greater body surface area to weight ratio as compared to adults, which places children at a much higher risk of overheating when exercising and playing vigorously. When a child becomes dehydrated, their core body temperature rises significantly faster than an adult, leading to potentially deadly consequences within 20 minutes if overheating develops and is not recognized. Symptoms such as muscle cramps, rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, headache, poor coordination, confusion, and irritability may be signs that your child is suffering a heat related illness. If there is any suspicion that this may be an issue for your child, evaluation at an emergency department is the best plan.
Jason D. Brayley, MD practices at MultiCare Orthopedics & Sports Medicine- Puyallup. To contact Dr. Brayley, visit multicare.org.