In today's world of Facebook, video games and other forms of home-bound entertainment, it seems like the best advice that a parent could give to their child is to "get outside and play". While there are few who doubt the benefits that daily bouts of exercise can bring to children and young adults, there is an increasing call from those in the medical profession to watch out for preventable injuries; this holds especially true for children that play organized sports such as football or baseball.
According to statistics from the American College of Emergency Physicians, more than 3.5 million children under the age of 14 are treated for exercise and sports-related injuries each year. Unfortunately, many of these injuries are preventable and are not sustained in the regular course of playing or training hard. The injuries most commonly sustained by youths are concussions, bone fractures, various knee problems, and the type of overuse injuries that commonly plague adults. While these problems affect most children that exercise at some point in their development, they are most prevalent in child athletes that participate in the same sport throughout the course of the year.
Overuse injuries are some of the most common – and most preventable – injuries that children sustain. Stress fractures in the spine and other areas, as well as ligament and tendon overuse in throwing or swinging arms, are injuries that commonly afflict child athletes. While these injuries are relatively easy for a doctor to diagnose, the treatment for nearly all of them is rest – something that can be very difficult to force an active child to do.
Concussions are another common injury that is starting to see an increased amount of attention. While studies have yet to prove whether or not a concussion can cause later developmental issues in children, it is a known fact that brain injuries are the leading cause of sports-related deaths in children and young adults. It is critical to ensure that children participating in contact sports such as football, hockey or lacrosse have adequate head protection, with a properly fitting helmet made by an approved manufacturer.
Knee issues are the most common sports injury afflicting young female athletes. Maturing girls develop differently than boys, and it's important for female athletes to maintain high levels of strength conditioning as they develop. Without adequate strength in the muscles surrounding the knee, young females are prone to developing ligament strains and tears.
So – what can parents do to ensure that their children are fit and healthy? Good nutrition, proper hydration, and adequate sleep are critical for a developing young body, and this holds especially true for child athletes. Parents can also work to limit their child's exposure to junk foods, which are loaded with calories and lacking in essential vitamins and nutrients. Also, a daily multivitamin benefit a child athlete but no other supplements or drugs are necessary unless a doctor has ordered them.
Finally – don't forget that kids are kids, and encourage them to get out and play. Yes, a child may be more at risk of an injury if they are out participating in exercise and other healthy activities, but the risk is worth the reward provided the proper precautions are taken. Take the necessary steps to limit preventable injuries, and your child will grow up healthy and strong.