What are Pediatric Sports Injuries?
Pediatric sports injuries are injuries sustained while playing indoor or outdoor sports such as football, basketball, hockey, baseball, or tennis, or while exercising. These injuries can result from sports accidents, inadequate training, improper use of protective devices, or insufficient stretching or warm-up exercises. Common sports injuries include bone, muscle, ligament, and tendon injuries that commonly involve joints such as the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, ankles, and feet.
Types of Pediatric Sports Injuries
There are several types of pediatric sports injuries including:
- Sprains and Strains: Sprains and strains are injuries affecting the muscles and ligaments. A sprain is an injury or tear of one or more ligaments that commonly occurs at the wrists, knees, ankles, and thumbs. A strain is an injury or tear of the muscle. Strains occur commonly in the back and legs. Sprains and strains occur due to overstretching of the joints during sports activities and accidents such as falls or collisions.
- Knee Injuries: The knee is a complex joint that consists of bone, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, which all help with joint movement. Knee problems may arise if any of these structures get injured by overuse, trauma, or during a sports activity. Common knee injuries include ACL tears and meniscus tears.
- Achilles Tendon Injuries: The Achilles tendon is a strong fibrous cord present behind the ankle that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It is used when you walk, run, or jump. Achilles tendon injuries are most often seen in sports that involve running, pivoting, and jumping. Recreational sports that may cause Achilles tendon injuries include tennis, football, basketball, and gymnastics.
- Shin Pain: The shin is the front part of your lower leg. Shin pain occurs most commonly in athletes involved in high-impact sports, jumping, or running. Shin pain can be caused by a condition called shin splints, compartment syndrome, or a stress fracture of the tibia or fibula. The most common source of shin pain in runners is shin splints.
- Stress Fractures: Stress fractures are defined as tiny cracks in the bone's surface caused by rhythmic, repetitive, overloading forces. These injuries can occur when a bone comes under repeated stress from walking, running, jumping, or marching, or from stress on the body from running in worn-out sneakers or with abrupt changes in running surfaces.
- Rotator Cuff Injuries: A rotator cuff is a group of tendons in the shoulder joint that provide support and enable a wide range of motion. Major injury to these tendons may result in a tear of the rotator cuff. Rotator cuff injuries are common in sports that use overhead motion, basketball, baseball, and football, and are a common cause of shoulder pain.
- Fractures and Dislocations: A fracture is a break in the continuity of a bone. There are several kinds of fractures that may result from a direct hit or fall during sports activities. A dislocation refers to the separation of two bones where they connect at a joint. Fractures of bones and dislocations of ball-and-socket joints such as in the shoulder are significant traumas that are extremely painful and require immediate medical attention.
- Concussion: Sadly, concussion is not an uncommon sports injury in children. It can occur in many sports due to a direct blow to the head. After such a blow, the child should be watched for symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, or headaches. While the treatment for most concussions is rest, all concussions should still be assessed by a physician.
Signs and Symptoms of Pediatric Sports Injuries
Some of the common signs and symptoms of pediatric sports injuries include:
- Cuts and abrasions
- Joint instability
- Inability to bear weight on the injured area
Diagnosis of Pediatric Sports Injuries
Pediatric sports injuries are diagnosed via a detailed medical review and thorough physical examination. Your doctor may also order certain imaging studies such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans for a detailed evaluation of damage to bones and soft tissues, and to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment for Pediatric Sports Injuries
The treatment commonly recommended for pediatric sports injuries is rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). The RICE method needs to be followed immediately after injury to relieve pain and inflammation and should be continued for at least 48 hours.
- Rest: You should rest from regular exercises or daily activities as needed.
- Ice: Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 20 minutes at a time. This should be done four to eight times a day. A cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel can be used.
- Compression: Compress the injured area with elastic wraps, special boots, air casts, and splints to reduce swelling.
- Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated on a pillow, above the level of the heart, to help decrease swelling.
Your doctor may recommend other treatments to help your injury heal. These include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be taken to reduce swelling and pain.
- Immobilization: Immobilization is minimizing or eliminating the movement of the injured area to prevent further damage and promote healing. Casting and splinting are the commonly seen non-surgical treatment options for injuries of the bones and soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments). These help to stabilize fractures and reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.
- Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation involves exercises that return the injured area to its normal function. The exercise starts with gentle range-of-motion exercises followed by stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Other therapies: Other common therapies that help in the healing of sports injuries include mild electrical currents (electrostimulation), cold packs or cryotherapy, heat packs or thermotherapy, high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound), massage, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
- Surgery: Surgery is the last resort for the management of pediatric sports injuries, and is indicated only if conservative techniques are not helpful. Surgery can repair torn tendons and ligaments and realign broken bones. Your surgeon may recommend either a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure or an open technique with a larger incision to treat your sports injury.
Prevention of Pediatric Sports Injuries
Some measures that can be followed to prevent pediatric sports injuries include:
- Follow an exercise program to strengthen the muscles.
- Gradually increase your exercise level and avoid overdoing the exercise.
- Ensure that you wear proper-fitting protective gear such as elbow guards, eye gear, facemasks, mouthguards, pads, comfortable clothes, and athletic shoes before playing any sports activity. This will help to reduce the chances of injury.
- Make sure that you follow warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after sports activities. Exercise will help to stretch the muscles, increase flexibility, and reduce soft tissue injuries.
- Avoid exercising immediately after eating a large meal.
- Maintain a healthy diet that will nourish the muscles.
- Avoid playing when you are injured or tired. Schedule breaks when playing.
- Learn all the rules of the game you are participating in.
- Ensure that you are physically fit to play the sport.