According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 6 out of 10 children aged between the ages of 5 and 14 participate in organised sports. Still more participate in informal recreational activities. Although sports participation provides numerous physical and social benefits, it also has a downside – the risk of sports-related injuries.
Common sporting injuries:
- Joint sprains – knee, ankle, shoulder and finger injuries
- Muscle strains – hamstring, calf, quadricep
- Tendon injuries – achilles, patella and gluteal tendon pain
- Bony overuse injuries – such as ‘shin splints’ or stress fractures
- Rehabilitation from surgery – knee, shoulder or ankle arthroscopies or reconstructions
These injuries are by far the most common cause of musculoskeletal injuries in children treated in emergency departments. They are also the single most common cause of injury-related primary care clinic visits.
Preventing and Treating Musculoskeletal Injuries
Treatment for sports-related injuries will vary by injury. If your child suffers a soft tissue injury (such as a sprain or strain) or a bone injury, the best immediate treatment is easy to remember: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and professional treatment if any injury is severe (a severe injury means having an obvious fracture or dislocation of a joint, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain).
Physiotherapists have a role in injury prevention. There are several injuries (including ankle sprains, knee injuries and hamstring strains) for which the risk can be significantly reduced where a specific injury prevention program is employed. These programs are typically not time intensive and can actually improve sporting performance as well.
Injuries can happen to any child who plays sports, but there are some things that can help prevent and treat injuries.
- Enrol your child in organised sports through schools, community clubs, and recreation areas that are properly maintained. Any organised team activity should demonstrate a commitment to injury prevention. Coaches should be trained in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and should have a plan for responding to emergencies. Coaches should also be well versed in the proper use of equipment, and should enforce rules on equipment use.
- Some organised sports programs have adults on staff who are certified medical professionals, including Physiotherapists. Physiotherapists are trained to prevent, recognize, and provide immediate care for athletic injuries.
- Make sure your child consistently uses proper gear for a particular sport, thereby reducing the chances of being injured.
- Make warm-ups and cool-downs part of your child’s routine before and after sports participation. Warm-up exercises make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible. Cool-down exercises loosen muscles that have tightened during exercise.
- Learn and follow safety rules and suggestions for your child’s particular sport.