More than 38 million children and teens play sports in the United States each year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, and it’s taking a toll.
About 1 in 3 kids playing team sports is injured seriously enough to miss practice or a game. Those who play multiple sports that put pressure on the same body part are at an increased risk for injury.
Here’s what experts say about some common sports risks for children and how to recognize, prevent and treat them.
“When they raise those questions or symptoms, then we invoke the rule: ‘When in doubt, sit them out,’ ” Gioia said. “Remove the youngster from playing, let the parent know, and seek medical attention immediately.”
Gioia and his colleagues have developed a smartphone app called Concussion Recognition and Response to help coaches and parents evaluate athletes after a blow to the head.
There is no set treatment for concussions that will fit all children, Gioia said, but parents and coaches should manage the child’s activity level to give the brain time to heal. After a concussion, a child needs rest from physical and mental activities, and a gradual return to normal, as long as it doesn’t aggravate symptoms. If something does make symptoms worse, stop that activity.
“You have to figure out that sweet spot of how much activity you can tolerate without worsening your symptoms,” Gioia said. “That’s where careful management comes in.”
“Kids are getting more over-specialized at an earlier age,” said Laurel Blakemore, head of orthopedics at Children’s National Medical Center. “Specializing in one sport at too young an age can lead to injuries, along with burnout.”
Jon Almquist, who recently retired as the athletic training program coordinator for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, agreed.
“Let the kid play sports to have fun playing sports instead of to boost the parent’s ego,” Almquist said. “Let them play different sports.”