Athletes at Risk for Sports-Related Injuries

Steps for Keeping Students Safe On and Off the Field

 With many young school athletes working hard this month to prepare for   fall sports, Safe Kids Oregon is encouraging parents and coaches to keep children safe on and off  the field and prevent sports injuries, including heat-related illnesses.  Nearly 3/4 of U.S. households have at least one child who plays organized sports.  Unfortunately, about 3.5 million children receive medical treatment for a sports-related injury each year, and as many as half of these injuries are preventable according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to recent studies in sports injuries, the rate and severity of sports related injuries increases with a child’s age.  Children ages 5 – 14 years of age account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments with collision and contact sports associated with higher rates of injury.  The most common types of sport-related injuries in children are sprains, muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, and heat-related illness.  Although very rare, brain injury is the leading cause of sports-related death to children. 

Safe Kids recommends the following steps to keep school-aged athletes save on and off the field:

Pre-Participation Physical Evaluations 
Safe Kids USA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend every child receive an annual pre-participation evaluation (PPE), which will help determine his/her readiness to play sports and may uncover any underlying conditions that could limit participation or increase the risk for injury or a medical emergency.  Parents should talk to their child’s doctor and ask them to perform the full pre-participation evaluation, which was recently updated by the AAP.

Dehydration/Health Related Illness
Young athletes need to be encouraged to drink water before, during and after practice, in order to prevent dehydration and the risk of a more serious heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  Athletes should start practice/play fully hydrated, and drink water for every 20 minutes of play.

Overuse Injuries
An overuse injury is difficult to diagnose and treat because they are usually subtle and occur over time. Fatigue, burnout or playing while injured can lead to overuse injuries such as repetitive motion injuries as well as acute injuries including sprains (mostly ankle), muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries. Warming up and stretching before play is essential to preventing sports related injuries.  This helps athletes avoid injuries such as muscle tears or sprains by stretching and releasing any muscle tension. 

Concussion
Children who do not wear or use protective equipment are at greater risk of sustaining sports-related injuries.  Parents can reduce their child’s risk of minor or serious injuries such as concussions by making sure their child wears the appropriate and properly fitted sports equipment during practice and competitive play and knowing the signs and symptoms of a concussion.

 Safe Kids Oregon works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under.  Safe Kids Oregon is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Oregon was founded in 1995 and is led by Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division.

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