Get ahead of the curve and get your child's sports physical sooner rather than later. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends kids get sports physicals even if they're not going to play an organized sport. In fact, six major medical organizations, including the AAP, agree in a new guidance that encourages parents to get kids' physicals because "all children are potential athletes."
“If they look like they might be remotely interested (in playing a sport), I say ‘How about we answer these questions and then if you decide to go, you’ve got your exam done,’” says William Roberts, M.D., M.S., FACSM, FAAFP, an author of the guidance. “What we’re trying to do is screen children to be prepared for activity.”
Preparticipation Physical Evaluations (PPE) prepare kids to become athletes and give parents the opportunity to talk about any potential injuries that can occur due to your child's health history. The AAP says, "Athletes should have a PPE at least six to eight weeks before the sports season begins to address any potential problems."
If your child does move on to play in an organized sport, be ready to wrap a few sprained ankles, ice strained muscles or even sign a cast covering a broken bone. Athletes get injured; it’s part of the game. But many parents aren’t aware that young athletes are at risk of more serious injuries. Here's what to know about the most common injuries — concussions, fractures and heel pain — so you can keep your kid safely in the game.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 300,000 athletes each year suffer a concussion. But that number may be even higher, say doctors. If you ask players if they’ve had a concussion, only about 10 percent say yes. However, if you ask about specific symptoms of concussions, the reports are higher, sometimes up to 40 percent higher among football players. With concussions, it’s very rare for a kid to be knocked unconscious, for instance. More often, a child who is concussed will complain of “seeing stars” or feeling woozy. Other signs of a concussion include nausea, dizziness, headaches, irritability and a general complaint of not feeling well. Although concussions can’t always be prevented, players can do things to lessen their chances, doctors say: • Make sure players use properly fitting equipment. • Make sure they wear all mandated equipment, especially mouth guards, even in soccer. • Make sure they do not return to play until they are cleared by a physician to do so; repeat concussions are no-nos. If you think a player has suffered a concussion, remember this: When in doubt, sit them out — until symptoms subside.
There are many different kinds of growth plate fractures in young athletes. Although some are more complicated and involve different treatment than others, it is important to understand that all fractures are serious and require appropriate medical attention. Fortunately, the same growth plates that make breaking something more likely than spraining something also allow kids to often heal a broken bone better than most adults. Healing can be very rapid for children, and once the fracture heals, they can resume their normal activity without restriction.
Active young athletes are likely to have issues with their feet as they are growing and placing stress on them at the same time. The most common issue kids have is called Sever’s disease, a condition of the growth plate of a child’s heel which causes injury to the heel bone itself. The foot grows to its full size faster than any other part of the body, and the heel can become less flexible. During the early stages of puberty (girls 8 – 10 and boys 10 – 12), kids are most susceptible to heel issues which can occur at the same time. It’s diagnosed when squeezing at the back of the heel causes pain. Orthotics can help alleviate pain during sports participation, and anti-inflammatory medications can be used to alleviate pain. Stretching can also be helpful.
Likeliest Sports Injuries
Injuries can happen to any child playing sports, and some sports have their own sets of most common injuries: Basketball: sprains, strains, bruises, fractures, dislocations, cuts, injuries to teeth, ankles, knees. Football: bruises, sprains, strains, pulled muscles, tears to soft tissues such as ligaments, broken bones, internal injures (bruised or damaged organs), concussions, back injuries; knees and ankles are the most common injury sites. Baseball: soft tissue strains, impact injuries that include fractures caused by sliding and being hit by a ball. Soccer: bruises, cuts and scrapes, headaches. Track and field: strains, sprains, scrapes from falls. Gymnastics: sprains and strains of soft tissues.
Treat Injuries with “RICE”
Rest: Reduce or stop using the injured area for at least 48 hours. If your child has a leg injury, he may need to stay off of it completely. Ice: Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times per day. Use a cold pack, ice bag or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice that is wrapped in a towel. Compression: Ask your child’s doctor about elastic wraps, air casts, special boots or splints that can be used to compress an injured ankle, knee or wrist to reduce swelling. Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.
— Tiffani Hill-Patterson