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Sports Injuries and Children

As participation in organized sports increases, millions of children are treated each year for sports-related injuries. According to studies, football, soccer, basketball, and wrestling top the list of most dangerous sports. The most common injuries are sprains and strains, contusions, fractures, and concussions.

Because sports injuries and children so often go hand-in-hand, parents must be aware of the risks. Know the common injuries, what causes them, how to prevent them, and where to turn for treatment when needed.

Overuse Injuries in Children’s Sports

A child holds a basketball in one arm while the other arm is in a cast and sling. Overuse injuries in children and adolescents most often occur during sports participation. Overuse injuries occur during repetitive motions when a child makes the same sports-related movement again and again without adequate recovery time. These are some of the most common overuse sports injuries seen in children:

  • Osgood-Schlatter Disease. This is inflammation in the growth plate at the top of the shin. It causes a painful bump just below the front of the knee. It occurs commonly in sports like basketball that require a lot of jumping, stopping, and starting.
  • Sever’s Disease. Children might have this injury if they complain of heel pain. Inflammation in the growth plate here often occurs during growth spurts and in high-impact sports like soccer, track, and gymnastics.
  • Jumper’s Knee. Pain in the lower area of the kneecap could be jumper’s knee, also known as patellar tendonitis. It happens when the tendon gets stressed and inflamed through repetitive contraction of the quadriceps muscles. It is common in all sports.
  • Baseball Elbow. Repeatedly pitching in baseball (or similar movement in other sports) can cause injury to the growing elbow joint. Little Leaguer’s elbow is a painful bump inside the joint. Another injury can occur when small pieces of bone or cartilage come loose and cause pain on the outside of the elbow.
  • Stress Fracture. Stress fractures are different from acute fractures in that they occur with repeated overload on the bone. The forces aren’t great enough to cause a sudden break, but over time fracture the bone. These are most common in the legs and feet and in running.
  • Strains and Sprains. A strain is an injury to a tendon, while a sprain involves a ligament. Overuse in sports can eventually cause stretching and painful inflammation in ligaments and tendons. For example, shoulder rotator cuff tendonitis is common in baseball, tennis, and swimming.

Acute Sports Injuries

A doctor stands in front of a teen girl in a soccer jersey, holding up one finger and checking for signs of a concussion.Overuse injuries are chronic, but children and teens also suffer acute injuries while playing sports. An acute injury occurs when tissue or bones experience sudden onset damage caused by an impact force, a fall, or sudden movements that twist the joints. Common acute injuries in children’s sports include:

  • Strains and Sprains. Damage to tendons and ligaments can occur suddenly. They range from stretching that causes inflammation to complete tears in the connective tissue. If children suffer an acute injury, they might hear a popping sound and have immediate pain. Other signs include swelling and reduced mobility or the inability to put weight on the joint.
  • ACL and Meniscus Injuries. A common type of sprain in sports is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee or in the meniscus on the side of the knee. An ACL injury is a serious injury that causes immediate pain and the inability to put weight on the leg. Any sport that requires twisting and sudden stopping in the knees, like basketball or soccer, can cause either injury.
  • Acute fractures. A child playing a sport might suffer an acute fracture of any bone if enough force is applied. It causes sudden pain and immobility. Running and jumping games, like basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics often cause ankle fractures. Hockey and lacrosse can lead to arm, wrist, and hand fractures.  
  • Concussions. A blow to the head or a blow to the body that shakes the head can cause a concussion, a type of brain injury. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, mental fogginess, irritability, and drowsiness. Contact sports are high-risk, but any sport can cause a concussion.

Prevention and Sports Injury Treatment

 A young boy holds up two weights as a physical therapist assists him. Preventative measures help reduce the risk and severity of sports injuries in children. To prevent overuse, make sure your child plays a variety of sports or gets adequate rest between seasons. Good training is also essential for prevention. A child should be conditioned to play a sport, which means going through specific strength training and stretching routines.

Rest, recovery, icing, and physical therapy for a sports injury are often the first, conservative treatment steps. If these are inadequate, a child might need surgery for a full recovery and a return to sports.

Skilled pediatric orthopedic surgeons can provide arthroscopic surgery to fix most sports injuries. For instance, a knee arthroscopy uses very small incisions and a camera to direct the repair of the torn ligament. Arthroscopic procedures reduce recovery time and speed healing.

How to Get Good Sports Injuries Treatment Near Me and My Child

Some of the leading experts in pediatric sports medicine, orthopedics, and physical therapy are right in your neighborhood. The pediatric orthopedic and sports medicine specialists at SI Ortho are experts in the unique needs of children. Your child needs a specialist because the bones and joints of children are different from adults.

If your child gets hurt or complains of ongoing pain from sports, request an appointment online or call us at (516) 364-0070 in Woodbury, (516) 295-0111 in Cedarhurst, or (516) 665-9200 in Rockville Centre.

Posted in: Sports Medicine