A new school year also brings a new season of fall sports and parents are gearing up for shuttling their children to practice and spending weekends on the sidelines cheering. As much as kids and parents love their sports, your New Orleans orthopedic surgeon warns that the potential for a sports injury is high at this time of year.
Today we’re answering some of the most common questions we’re asked regarding pediatric sports injuries so you can be prepared.
What are the most common pediatric sports injuries? The most common sports injuries are bruises and sprains. Bruises can happen anywhere along a large muscle such as the thigh, leg, arm, or back. Sprains typically occur in the ankles, but other body parts can be sprained as well.
How can injuries be avoided? What can parents/coaches do to help? The best way to avoid injury is to be sure you are using proper equipment and safety gear in an appropriate manner. For example:
1. Wear padding in sports like football and volleyball;
2. Use mouth guards or eye protection when needed;
3. Wear proper shoes for the type of surface you will be playing on;
4. For some kids, additional equipment may be required, like knee and ankle braces;
5. Tell young athletes to be aware of their surroundings—this can help avoid unnecessary collisions;
6. Some activities should have limits, such as the number of pitches thrown in softball/baseball, number of innings played, etc.
7. In more advanced and competitive sports, trainers/coaches typically teach injury prevention techniques such as the proper ways to turn, cut, and pivot to avoid knee and ankle ligament injuries.
When should you allow for natural healing at home, and when should you visit a New Orleans orthopedic surgeon for an injury? Most injuries, such as sprains, heal with Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE). If, however, your child has any of the following, you may need further evaluation from a doctor:
1. Injuries that do not respond to RICE after several days;
2. The inability to bear weight on the extremity;
3. Locking of the joint;
4. Pain that persists.
If the injury is severe from the beginning, such as a suspected broken bone, you may need to take your child to an urgent care facility or a pediatric emergency room.
When an injury occurs, how can a doctor help fix it? Most sports injuries, especially in children, heal with time and rest. In most cases, the doctor’s role is to diagnose the problem and determine how much time away from play is needed to allow for full recovery. In some cases, doctors identify more serious injuries that may require medical interventions, such as torn ACLs that need surgical reconstruction. Non-contact twisting injury in the female athlete often raises the doctor’s suspicion for an ACL, which can prompt more sophisticated evaluation with tools like an MRI.
How long does the healing process usually take? The healing process varies depending on the severity of the injuries. Bruising can sometimes take several weeks to fully resolve. Despite this prolonged period of time, your child can typically return to play once he/she is pain free. Sprains are graded on the number of involved ligaments injured and the degree to which they are injured. Some fractures can be treated without surgery if the New Orleans orthopedic surgeon can align the bones, but others will require an incision.
What is the risk of early return to play? Most young athletes are eager to get back to the field/court; however, early return to play is cautioned. When the body is not fully healed, it is at risk for a repeat injury or potential damage to another body part. Both of these things can lead to being sidelined for longer than just the remainder of a season. It is best to allow for complete healing first, and then return to play fully healthy.
If you have questions or concerns regarding how to keep your child safe and what to do in case of an injury, contact the office of New Orleans orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Meyer today to schedule a consultation.