Soccer girlsIt’s that time of year again. Spring has sprung, and with it comes the start of spring sports: baseball, tennis, lacrosse, soccer and track and field. Time for kids to dust off baseball gloves, clean off their cleats, dig out that tennis racket and get outside! But before they hit the pitch, field or track, the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team at Seattle Children’s Hospital has a few tips to keep kids in the game and injury-free.

Unfortunately, injuries are inevitable, but there are preventive measures kids can take to reduce the risk of being permanently sidelined. Children’s doctors and athletic trainers remind kids to know their body and their limits.

What are the most common spring sports injuries?

Because of the wide array of sports played throughout spring, injuries can vary.

  • Common injuries from throwing and racquet sports include shoulder and elbow injuries – tennis, baseball etc.
  • Knee injuries, ankle injuries and shin splints are commonly seen in sports that involve a lot of running – track, soccer, lacrosse.
  • It is important for kids to pay attention to cues of persistent pain – knees, hip, shoulder etc.
  • Concussions can occur in any sport, if forceful contact to the head or body occurs. Always report symptoms of a concussion to a coach or athletic trainer. Symptoms can include:
    • Confusion
    • Headache
    • Upset stomach
    • Blurry vision
    • Sensitivity to light or sound
    • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy
    • Memory problems

Sports concussions can be a serious health problem. They require early identification, careful evaluation and specialized management before a child or teen can return to play.

What do we know about ACL injuries?

Although concussions have seen the most media coverage lately, another common sports injury the Orthopedics team explains are ACL injuries. ACL injuries are damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. The ACL is one of four ligaments that keep the knee from wobbling or giving out when you move.

For junior high to college students, ACL injuries are more common in girls than boys. Young women are two to eight times more likely to tear their ACLs than boys of the same age, though doctors aren’t sure why. Some studies suggest that the problem may be related to hormones, quad and hamstring strength, coordination or anatomy.

What is clear is the mechanics involved: When the knee is forced into an unusual position, the ACL and other ligaments can tear, partially or all the way. ACL tears often occur when children:

  • Stop or change direction suddenly
  • Twist their knees
  • Bend their knees sideways

Seattle Children’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team are experts in treating growing athletes. Athletic trainers and physical therapists often work with student athletes to increase their relative core and hamstring strength and practice jumping and landing mechanics to help decrease the likelihood of an ACL injury.

10 sports tips for children and teens

Before your child or teen goes out for spring sports this year, review these ten tips from the Orthopedics and Sports Medicine team:

  1. Get plenty of sleep
  2. Avoid skipping meals
  3. Have a pre-practice/game snack and re-fuel afterwards
  4. Stay hydrated – important to make sure you are hydrated going into practice/game and staying hydrated during activity, especially with warmer weather.
  5. Complete a proper warm-up and cool down with stretching
  6. Listen to your body and know when to stop. If you are tired, feeling ill or something is hurting, listen to you body to prevent a more serious problem from developing.
  7. Stay conditioned throughout the year. It is a good idea to maintain some level of physical activity throughout the year. Too much, too fast, can lead to an injury.
  8. Take breaks from year-round sports. To avoid burnout and overuse, it is also a good idea to vary physical activity throughout the year and take a break from a year-long sport. You can still be active, but give your body parts a break – overuse of the same body part can be bad. Avoid repetitive overuse and possible injury.
  9. See a health care provider if you experience early signs of an injury. Seeking medical care early can help avoid injuries from becoming more serious. Seeking care early can lead to less time missed.
  10. Most importantly, have fun! Sports should be fun and enjoyable. If sports become a source of frustration, stress or injury, it may be time to take a break or explore a different activity.

After an injury – what next?

Unfortunately, injuries do occur. Taking the proper steps to reduce the risk of injury is important, but sometimes things happen unexpectedly.

  • Seek early medical evaluation for diagnosis and to begin a treatment plan.
  • Physical therapy will likely be an important component of a complete recovery. It is important to follow through with a rehabilitation program to make sure the injury has not just recovered from pain, but that your body is back to functioning at full strength. The goal is to avoid recurrent pain, further injury and to get athletes back in the game, safely.
  • A safe and gradual progression is important to prevent recurrent injury.

Remember, sports are fun and injuries can be prevented. Take the time to warm up properly, listen to your body and if something happens unexpectedly, seek early medical evaluation.

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