How to Keep Your Child’s Minor Sports Injury From Becoming a Chronic Problem

Minor sports injuries are common among active kids who participate in sports and physical activities.

When your child suffers a minor sports injury, you may be inclined to brush it off and send them back in the game if there’s no apparent damage. However, ignoring some types of injuries can cause chronic problems such as pain and immobility in the future. For example, repeated injury to joints, tendons, and ligaments can speed up the deterioration of cartilage and result in osteoarthritis, says the Arthritis Foundation.

A child’s sports injury, no matter how minor, can threaten the health of growing bones. Orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Michael C. Russonella, DO, of North Jersey Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Institute in Clifton and Nutley, New Jersey, has the expertise necessary to provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan for your child’s injury. Dr. Russonella helps your child so they can safely return to sports and avoid chronic problems in the future.

Find out what you can do to help protect your child’s future well-being when minor sports injuries occur.

Listen to your child

When your child gets hurt, listen to what your child tells you about the way they feel. If they’re in pain, insist that they stop the activity immediately to avoid further injury. This allows you to observe your child further before they resume playing.

Don’t encourage playing through pain. Minimizing a child’s reaction to pain can result in them hiding the pain, which is especially serious when it’s not visible to you or the coaches.

When pediatric fractures heal without medical attention, they can interfere with normal growth and development. Acute injuries that occur as a result of a fall, twist, or collision can damage your child’s growth plates. The growth plates, which are cartilage discs at the end of long bones in children and pre-pubescent teens, add length to bones as the cartilage discs multiply. When trauma damages a growth plate, it can stop the growing too soon and result in deformed limbs.

Get immediate medical attention

Certain symptoms warrant immediate medical attention. A head injury that results in a headache, slurred speech, or blurred vision can indicate a concussion. If your child passes out, vomits, and/or has seizures, call 911 and get emergency care right away.

You should also get medical attention for any potential fracture since it may involve your child’s growth plates. Growth plate fractures account for up to 30% of all fractures in children, according to the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA). While a bone fracture may show obvious signs of dislocation or swelling, a growth plate fracture can require an x-ray for identification.

If you suspect a growth plate injury, POSNA recommends that you have your child examined by a physician as soon as possible, within five to seven days. Children’s bones heal quickly, so non-surgical repositioning may not be possible as soon as 10 days after injury.

Follow the doctor’s orders

All types of sports injuries typically require rest and recovery. Set a good example for your child and follow treatment recommendations for healing rest.

Fractures may require splints, slings, or casts. In some cases, a fracture may require surgical repositioning. It’s important your child follows through with recommendations for physical therapy, stretching exercises, and limitations on activity to assist in recovery.

If your child had a growth plate fracture, they may require medical follow-up for up to 12 months to ensure the affected bone grows properly. While it may be difficult to endure your child’s frustration, wait for medical approval before your child resumes sports or physical activity after any treated injury to avoid the possibility of reinjury.

Avoid sports specialization

Kids’ sports injuries that occur from overuse can cause long-term chronic problems. These conditions develop when your child participates in one sport year-round, to the exclusion of other activities. Injuries that involve swelling, limb deformity, or the loss of normal function require a medical evaluation.

About half of all sports-related injuries are caused by overuse. Some of the more common overuse injuries include shin splints, swimmer’s shoulder, anterior knee pain, “little league elbow,” and “little league shoulder.”

Follow these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help prevent overuse injuries from sports specialization:

  • Enforce taking at least one month off from a sport at least three times per year
  • Don’t let your child play the same sport more than five times in one week
  • Encourage participation in a variety of sports to help your child develop different muscle groups

Find out more about protecting your child from chronic problems while allowing them to participate in activities they enjoy. Schedule an appointment online or call one of our offices to arrange a consultation.

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