If your kids are in summer sports and training camps, you’ve probably spent many evenings cheering them on at games and tournaments. Unfortunately, you may also have experienced those gut-wrenching moments when they fall, collide, or overexert themselves and become injured.
No parent wants to see their child get hurt — regardless of whether it is a minor cut and bruise or a serious strain or tear. But it is important to be prepared if they are sidelined. Learn about the types of injuries your kids may encounter and how they should be handled when you can’t immediately be by their side.
Common sports injuries
During the summer, kids often go to camps that specialize in football, soccer, baseball and softball, basketball, tennis, and track and field. According to Noah Chinitz, MD, an orthopedist at Westmed Medical Group, who sees many child and adult sports injuries, this is the time when our young athletes are in pre-season or summer training for fall and winter sports. When school starts, many will be trying out for spots on varsity and junior varsity teams.
All sports carry some degree of risk, explains Dr. Chinitz, whether it’s because of contact with bodies or equipment, impact with the ground or other surfaces, or repetition of movement. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Knee injuries, including ligament and meniscus tears
- Knee hyperextension injuries
- Groin injuries
- Pelvic avulsion fractures, which are when a muscle or tendon pulls a piece of bone away
- Ankle sprains
- Ankle fractures
- Wrist and hand fractures
Making the call
Parents often feel helpless and confused when their kid gets hurt playing a sport. It’s even worse when they’re at a camp or training program, out of physical reach. You may be unsure what to do first. And how about if you’re the coach, counselor, or guardian who’s ultimately responsible?
While upsetting, injuries come with the territory and are typically not a cause for extreme alarm. Parents generally do not need to rush off to camp — there are protocols in place for when a child is injured.
For starters, remember that although it may be upsetting to pull your child from sports, it is a very common scenario, and it is critical to treat an injury correctly right away. At Westmed, our orthopedic department can see injuries on the same day.
Treatment depends on the injury and can include:
- RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation)
- Activity modification
- Self-directed exercises
- Over-the-counter medications for pain
- Physical therapy
Even if the injury seems minor or the athlete is determined to play after only a few days of rest, consult a health care provider. “Encouraging the athlete to be seen by a physician for clearance is important because sometimes when symptoms improve, athletes will try to return before being properly evaluated,” says Dr. Chinitz.
Head injuries should always be taken seriously. Any athlete who is hit in the head should stop playing immediately and be evaluated for a concussion. If they lose consciousness, even briefly, call 911 right away. Signs of a concussion that require immediate medical attention include appearing confused, dazed, or forgetful, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, and blurred vision. A second impact before fully healing can be life-threatening.
Injury prevention tips
Wearing appropriate gear for the sport is important. A child also needs to learn the right fundamentals to avoid injury as proper technique will go a long way.
“Playing through pain is never a good idea and can worsen an injury,” says Dr. Chinitz. “Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, and athletes shouldn’t ignore it.”
Remember to stay hydrated and calm.
Heat is just as dangerous to a young athlete as a hole in a soccer field. “Heat exhaustion and stroke are conditions that can develop quickly and have significant effects,” says Dr. Chinitz. If temperatures are high, heat stroke can still easily set in despite hydration. Be sensible on extra hot days, and if heat stroke is suspected, immediately move to a cool environment and drink cold liquids. “Staying hydrated is important, especially during the summer month.” he adds.