What to Do When Your Child Is Injured in Sports: A Comprehensive Guide
Youth sports injuries are on the rise. Research shows that child athletes account for a staggering 3.5 million injuries per year in the U.S. alone, and a recent UK study found that sports injuries account for more than 25% of emergency room visits by young patients. As a parent, you want to understand how to prevent these all-too-common afflictions, how to identify them, and what to do if an injury occurs.
We’ve created this guide to help you make sure your youngster stays safe while playing the sports they love, as well as getting back on the field or the court as quickly as possible if they do end up suffering from one of the most common youth sports injuries.
Common Kids’ Sports Injuries
Playing sports has become the second leading cause of injuries among American youth. So what can you do to make sure your child stays off the sidelines and out of the hospital? The first step is to familiarize yourself with the most common types of sports-related injuries in kids and which sports pose the greatest risk for these injuries.
These are the most common kids’ sports injuries in the United States:
According to WebMD, football is responsible for the most youth sports injuries, with basketball, soccer, and baseball following close behind. Most of the injuries are caused by chronic repetitive stress put on the wrist, knee, ankle, foot, or back.
Many health experts recommend that children participate in a variety of sports instead of dedicating all of their time and energy to just one. This will help prevent repetitive muscle strain in particular areas of the body.
For example, if your child plays football, they should also consider running track or joining the gymnastics team. This type of variety will help prevent common youth sports injuries (like wrist sprains and ankle strains) by giving your young athlete a good mix of movements.
Of course, some injuries are more serious than strains and sprains, and they can’t be prevented through conditioning. We’re talking specifically about concussions. This type of injury is extremely common in contact sports, and every parent should know what to do when such an injury occurs.
Concussions in Children
Concussions are among the most common and intimidating youth sports injuries. A concussion can occur with a mild to moderate blow to the head, and it temporarily interferes with the brain’s ability to function properly. Concussions can happen with or without a loss of consciousness, so it’s important to look for the telltale symptoms whenever a head injury occurs.
Common concussion symptoms include:
- Intense headaches
- Extreme sleepiness
- Blurry or double vision
- Confusion or sluggishness
- Vomiting or nausea
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Feeling dizzy or unbalanced
- Changes in mood or behavior
If your child plays a full-contact sport like football, make sure that they wear a high-quality and properly fitted helmet every time they’re on the field. This will help to prevent any possible brain damage and minimize the severity of the impact.
When your child suffers from a head injury and you’re concerned that they might have a concussion, you should go to the emergency room or your pediatrician’s office immediately. A doctor will be able to tell if a concussion has occurred, come up with a treatment plan, and let you know when it’s safe for your child to return to school and playing sports.
How to Prevent Kids’ Sports Injuries
If this all sounds a bit scary, don’t worry. As a parent, you’ll be happy to know that sports-related injuries can easily be prevented in kids, as long as you take some simple safety measures both at the game and at home. In fact, research shows that more than half of all youth sports injuries are preventable.
According to the CDC, the top tips for preventing youth sports injuries are:
- Taking your child in for a preseason physical exam with their doctor.
- Making sure your child has the right protective gear for their sport.
- Ensuring that your child is dressed appropriately for the weather.
- Teaching your child how to stretch their limbs before and after games.
- Keeping your little athlete hydrated with their own easy-to-use water bottle.
Put together an injury prevention plan with your child. This is a great way to make them feel involved and less fearful about possible youth sports injuries. Kids who openly discuss injury prevention feel more in control on the court and on the field, and they’re better prepared to face the rigors of their sport without falling victim to serious injury.
You may also want to talk to your child’s pediatrician about any nutritional supplements that might minimize their risk of common injuries.
How to Treat Youth Sports Injuries
No matter how well you prepare, accidents can still happen. If your child is injured, just remember the acronym RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
- Rest: Don’t place excess stress or pressure on the affected area until a doctor has looked at it.
- Ice: Use ice to minimize pain and swelling; do this in regular 15-minute intervals for the first 48-72 hours.
- Compression: Use compression socks or wraps to reduce swelling. Start below the affected area and wrap upward. Don’t let your child sleep in the wrap.
- Elevation: When possible, elevate the injured area above the heart to reduce swelling.
In some cases, athletic braces may be necessary to reduce the pain and provide support throughout the healing process. Since the most common kids’ sports injuries occur from repetitive stress on the joints and muscles, we wanted to share some of the best sports braces for kids to help your star athlete get back in the game.
Treating Youth Wrist Injuries
The most important part of treating an injured wrist is keeping it immobilized so it can heal. You need a supportive and comfortable kids' wrist brace that’s easy for your child to wear and also durable enough to keep up with your active youth athlete.
A good wrist brace stabilizes the bones and joints, opens easily for any necessary adjustments, and is both soft and supportive. Wrist braces are the ideal treatment for breaks, strains, and sprains, and they also come in very handy both before and after any wrist operations your child might need due to a traumatic sports injury.
Treating Youth Knee Injuries
One of the most painful youth sports injuries involves damage to the knee. Your little athlete may need a pediatric knee stabilizer brace to help them recover the full use of one of their most important joints.
Your child's knee brace should provide compressive support to the patella and surrounding areas in order to prevent inflammation and encourage proper healing. Look for a slip-on kids’ knee brace that's comfortable enough to wear for long hours. It should also be flexible but supportive and easy to clean since your child will need to keep it on anytime they use their legs, or even 24 hours a day.
Treating Youth Ankle Injuries
A blow to the ankle is another debilitating kids’ sports injury that can be treated with a high-quality and supportive brace. Your child’s ankle brace should provide targeted compression to their injury while also being flexible enough to allow for proper blood flow.
A good ankle brace gives your child the compression and heat needed to adequately treat an ankle injury. It's also comfortable enough to be worn for as long as needed, and lightweight enough to not hold your child back from day-to-day activities. Choose a brace that is latex-free in order to prevent irritation or possible allergic reactions.
Treating Youth Back Injuries
One of the scariest youth sports injuries you and your child can deal with is damage to their back. You hope never to worry about harm coming to your child's spine, but if your little athlete does hurt their back, you can provide them with a specially designed back brace for children.
The best kids’ back braces provide full cervical-thoracic support to ensure that your child can heal as fast and easy as possible from any injury to their back. It should also meet the specific needs of children when it comes to motion restriction and spinal support.
Treating Youth Foot Injuries
Youth sports injuries to the foot are very common in popular team sports like football and soccer. If your child suffers from an injury to one of their feet, they may need a special walking boot that’s designed specifically for kids.
The best foot braces for children are made to simulate a normal gait and provide superior support for children who are healing from an injury to one of their feet. Your child's foot brace should be durable and comfortable enough to keep up with their active lifestyle and provide kid-tough performance.
Final Notes: Raising Happy and Healthy Youth Athletes
If you’re still concerned about letting your child play sports, remember that the risks can be minimized. More importantly, the benefits outweigh these risks. Youth sports lead to higher self-esteem, improved academic performance, and first-class physical fitness. Playing in a team sport has been shown to reduce stress, reduce the likelihood of criminal behavior in at-risk youth, and helps children gain a greater sense of teamwork both at home and in the classroom.
As long as you’re proactive about promoting safe habits on the field, you can rest easy as you cheer from the stands.