When your child signs up for winter sports, your young athlete may come home with the occasional bump or bruise that you can easily treat with a little love and your first-aid kit.
But do you know what to do if something more serious happens? Unfortunately, each year about 1.35 million kids end up in the ER from sports-related injuries.
1. Schedule a Sports Physical
Before your child laces up his cleats or sneakers, make sure he or she has a routine sports physical. Your doctor will take a detailed account of any previous injuries, medical conditions and a family history. We also ask about what kind of sports your child will be playing. After that, it’s time for the exam, which covers everything from the top-most hair on your child’s head all the way down to the toes. It’s also the time where your kiddo can get the routine vaccines he needs.
2. Know What to Do
Next time your child gets hurt, be prepared. Here are four common sports-related conditions, their symptoms and treatment.
Sprains and Strains
What’s the difference? A sprain is an injury causing stretching or tearing to the ligament in the joint. A strain (a.k.a. pulled muscle) is an injury that causes stretching or tearing of the muscle. While strains are typically treated with rest, heat or cold, physical therapy can sometimes help, too. As for sprains, rapid physical therapy and the return to range-of-motion exercises is important, because it gets kids moving and back to their regular activities faster than using crutches or bed rest. In severe sprain cases, your child’s doctor may suggest surgery based on the location of the sprain and condition of the ligament.
Heat illnesses are best prevented by avoiding being outside during the hottest parts of the day. If there’s a game or practice then, make sure your child wears loose clothing, sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and stays hydrated. Plain old H20 is fine for activities that last less than an hour; for longer activities, try electrolyte replacements like Gatorade G2 or Pedialyte.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include weakness, headache, heavy sweating and cool, clammy skin. Move your child to a cool place and rehydrate. If her symptoms don’t improve within 30 minutes, call her doctor.
Heat stroke is a serious condition that requires emergency care. Symptoms include hot, dry skin, a high fever, vomiting and possibly loss of consciousness. If your child shows these signs, take him to the ER immediately.
A concussion happens when a blow to the head or other part of the body causes the brain to be jostled inside the skull. Symptoms include headache, dizziness and blurry vision; more severe signs include seizures and worsening headaches, as well as pronounced confusion or strange behavior. If your child has had a possible concussion, have him evaluated by a professional, either on the field or at the ER. Whether or not he’ll need a hospital stay depends on the severity of the concussion. The good news: Most concussion cases are mild, and symptoms usually go away after a week. The best treatment is rest. Your child should avoid watching TV or using tablets, computers and video games, which stimulate the brain and could cause concussion symptoms to reappear or worsen. Over time he can slowly return to normal activities and sports, once his doctor gives the okay.
3. Coach Your Kid
Kids are prone to injury because they lack the inherent fear that adults have of getting hurt. And while your young athlete may think he’s the next Tom Brady, he shouldn’t push himself beyond his limits. Raising a young athlete is a team effort that includes the parents, coaching staff and doctors all teaching your child the importance of regular, safe sports practice, including strength-training, conditioning and flexibility.