Involvement in physical activity and sports is a crucial part of healthy growth in children. Sports ensure development of motor skills and maintenance of healthy weight and good vision. Playing sports makes occasional injuries unavoidable. Contact sports are sports where there is a likelihood of physical contact with other players and collisions with them. Sports like basketball and football have a higher rate of injury than non-contact sports like swimming and running.
Here are some common sports related injuries that children can get:
Bone Fractures: This involves a partial or complete break in any bone. The positive element is that, due to soft and flexible bones, fractures heal rapidly in younger children than in adults. Two most common types of bone fractures observed in children:
Stress Fracture: This is also called a hairline fracture as tiny cracks form in the fractured bone. This injury is very common in children who are involved in track and field athletics or other forms of distance running. It is usually caused due to an overuse of the same bones during intensive physical activity.
Growth Plate Fractures: Growth plates are specific weak areas in children’s bones where growth happens. These are common in children who do gymnastics or play contact sports.
Concussions: Sometimes, a powerful blow to the head or a strong collision while playing sports can cause mild damage to blood vessels and nerves in the brain. The severity of the trauma causes a range of symptoms like hearing or vision issues and balance or memory problems. Dizziness, confusion and light sensitivity after the injury can indicate a concussion. Head injuries like concussions are especially common in sports like bicycling, skateboarding and skating which involve the risk of high-speed collisions or falls.
Shoulder and knee dislocation: This involves an injury to a joint which pushes the end of two bones away from their proper position. This is a very common injury in impact sports which is sports that involve high levels of bodily wear and tear. Some of these sports are soccer, running, basketball, hockey etc.
Muscle Sprains and Strains: Sprains, especially in the ankle, are common in all sports. Here, a ligament that connects two bones gets overstretched. A strain on the other hand happens when a muscle is overstretched or torn. This is also called a ‘muscle pull’ and is a common injury in children involved in all sports.
Prevention of Sports Injuries
While each injury has a distinct cause, here are some general reasons that may lead up to a paediatric sports injury. Injuries that occur due to overuse and repetitive movement are somewhat preventable, while collisions and accidents that occur once in a while cannot be prevented.
Avoid Excessive Exhaustion Without Breaks: If the child is involved in competitive sports and intensively trains on a regular basis, it is important to take some weeks off practice after competitive tournaments are over. Rest and relaxation recuperates the body while excessive wear and tear without rest can cause weakness and fatigue.
Ensure Proper Nutrition and Hydration: It is very hard for the body to continue intensive activity if appropriate nutrition like proteins, fats and carbohydrates are unavailable. Appropriate consumption of calories and water ensures that young children have the energy reserves to support their training and to recover from injuries. If a child is involved in intensive sports, the parents can also approach paediatricians and dieticians to discuss proper meal and dietary requirements for the child. Improper nutrition in children involved in sports can break down the body and cause chronic weakness and fatigue which makes other injuries worse.
Avoid Practicing Without Improper Gear: Lack of gear like knee pads and helmets while cycling, ice-skating or playing soccer will cause an avoidable or unavoidable injury to be much more serious that it would be if proper gear is worn. Good quality helmets are always a priority in sports where falling down or collisions are likely.
Watch Out For Improper Sports Techniques: This is a cause that parents and coaches need to be watchful about. Proper observation of the child during training can ensure that they are not training in a manner that poses a risk to their health or causes an injury. Lacking proper technique during training can weaken the bones and muscles that the child is focusing on training and make injuries more likely.
First Aid and General Treatment
If the child has an injury during or after a sports match or practice, there are some steps that should be taken.
If a child complains of pain, exercise shouldn’t be continued without observing the area where pain is felt.
Minor injuries like tenderness, bruising and stiffness can be treated with ease. It is not advisable to try to self-treat a severe injury like dislocation, fractures, or any head injuries without visiting an emergency room.
The affected area should be rested for 48-72 hours. Bandages, crutches or other tools can be used to ensure that the area is protected from exposure to more harm.
Ice packs are very effective in treating swelling. An ice pack can be applied to the area of injury once every 2-3 hours. The ice pack should be wrapped in a towel before applying it to the body. Direct exposure of ice to the skin can cause ice burns.
Immobilization, that is, placing an injured joint or bone in a splint or cast to prevent movement is helpful when caring for a sprain or muscle strain.
if first aid techniques do not not effectively improve the injury within a few days or the child complains of acute pain, it is necessary to visit a hospital or clinic for further treatment. In more serious injuries, surgeries and physiotherapy may be required. A medical practitioner will be able to specify treatment and further care for such serious injuries.