Children benefit in many ways from their involvement in youth sports. Being part of a team fosters feelings of belonging, inspires collaborative play and strategy, and is typically an excellent form of exercise. “Still, despite the benefits, there is reason for concern about the injury risk their children face on the playing fields,” says local orthopedic surgeon, Peter Gambacorta, DO.
A Safe Kids Worldwide survey of emergency room visits found that a young athlete visits a hospital emergency room for a sports-related injury more than a million times a year, or about every 25 seconds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 2.6 million children 0 to 19 years old are treated for an emergency each year for sports- and recreation-related injuries.
Some common injuries young children face are related to the skeletal and muscular systems of the body. Dr. Gambacorta stresses that children’s bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are still growing, making them more susceptible to injury. However, with some education, many youth-sport injuries can be prevented.
Sprains and strains. Sprains are injuries to ligaments (the bands of tough, fibrous tissue that connect two or more bones at a joint). Strains impact a muscle or a tendon, which connects muscles to bones. Clinical research links acute strains and sprains to improper warm-up before sports, fatigue, and previous injuries. Preparticipation conditioning and stretching can help reduce the risk of injury.
Periostitis. Commonly known as “shin splints,” periostitis is an overuse injury that occurs in athletes engaged in activities that involve rapid deceleration. Periostitis causes inflammation of the band of tissue that surrounds bones known as the periosteum, and affects people who jump, run, or lift heavy weights repetitively. To avoid shin pain, young athletes can gradually build up their tolerance for physical activity. Incorporating cross-training into a regimen and supportive shoes or orthotic inserts may help.
Repetitive use activities. Swimmers, tennis players, pitchers, and quarterbacks may experience a repetitive use injury. This is pain in an area of the body that is used over and over again causing Inflammation of muscles and tendons. Repetitive use injuries can also cause stress fractures, which are hairline fractures in bones that are subjected to repeated stress. Resting between exercises can help alleviate these types of injuries. Ice, compression, elevation and immobilization are helpful if pain is persistent.
Growth plate injuries. Growth plate injuries are the areas of growing tissue near the ends of the long bones in the legs and arms in children and adolescents, and often result from falling or twisting. A growth plate produces new bone tissue. If injured, it cannot do its job properly, and may contribute to deformed bones, shorter limbs or arthritis.
While there’s sure way to prevent growth plate injuries, getting proper and immediate care after an injury can help prevent future problems. An orthopedic surgeon has the expertise to diagnose and treat these injuries.
Youth sports injuries are common but preventable. Warming up, being in good physical shape and not overtaxing a growing body can help kids avoid pain and impairment.
Peter L. Gambacorta, DO is a board certified orthopedic surgeon with advanced fellowship training in sports medicine. He focuses on managing acute and overuse injuries of the musculoskeletal system in children, adolescents, and adults by incorporating state-of-the-art surgical and non-surgical techniques. Visit www.nortownorthopedics.com, or call 716-204-2550.