Sports-Related Injuries in Children
By Andrew Getzin, M.D.
Over the past few decades, there has been an increase in the amount of
sports training in which young children participate. They are playing
quantities that approach those of older athletes. In addition, many children
are specializing in one sport on year-round traveling teams. As a result,
children are developing more injuries and at an earlier age.
Whether your child is active in different sports or is concentrating on one
sport, it's not uncommon to feel sore and achy after a game or a serious
workout. Fortunately, kids are resilient and typically recover quickly. If your
child is hurting a few days after an activity or is limping, a physician should
see him or her. Your doctor can help to distinguish between
a minor problem and one that needs ongoing medical attention.
It is helpful for parents to be aware of a few common problems of young
athletes to know when to seek medical attention.
fracture is an injury to a bone that occurs from repetitive actions
that stress, but do not actually break, the bone. Humans continually absorb old
bone and lay down new bone in a relatively even balance. When children are
consistently working very hard, as they do during sports activity, their bodies
may have a difficult time meeting the demand to lay down new bone. This
imbalance can lead to small microscopic fractures that collectively constitute
a stress fracture. With continued activity, a stress fracture can develop into
a break in the bone.
In children, almost all stress fractures occur in the lower limbs or the
back. The main symptom is pain. Children may also experience swelling,
weakness, and a change in the way they walk or run. Treatment for a stress
fracture depends on the location of the injury, but will typically include
rest, physical therapy, appropriate modification of activity, and potentially
splinting or casting. Some stress fractures may even require surgery,
especially if they have not been identified and treated promptly.
Osgood-Schlatter disease is another type of injury
primarily related to overuse. It is the most common form of a group of injuries
collectively called apophysitis, in which growing
children develop inflammation at the growth plate of their bones.
Osgood-Schlatter disease develops most often in
children involved in jumping sports such as basketball and volleyball,
particularly if they have just undergone a growth spurt. Children experience
pain in the front of the knee where the patella tendon inserts into the shinbone
or tibia initially with activity, but the pain can increase to be felt even at
rest. Once properly diagnosed, Osgood-Schlatter
disease can be treated with anti-inflammatories,
icing, physical therapy, and activity modification. Left untreated, the young
athlete will experience increasing pain.
are common injuries caused by trauma to the head and are most often experienced
in contact sports. They may be ignored by children who want to resume play and
are unaware of the potential long-term problems that can develop. Symptoms of
concussions include headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, inability to
concentrate, poor sleep, loss of appetite, and feeling disoriented. Treatment
for a concussion is to cease participation in sports until the doctor clears
your child for activity. Premature return to participation increases the risk
of another concussion because the child's balance is still impaired, as well as
an uncommon but potentially fatal problem called second impact syndrome.
The risk for long-term problems after receiving one concussion is low.
However, the damage of multiple concussions is cumulative. People can develop a
problem called post-concussive syndrome, where they experience long-term
symptoms similar to an acute concussion, resulting in difficulties with
concentration and memory. In addition, recent studies have linked multiple
concussions to an increased risk for depression.
Stress fractures, Osgood-Schlatter disease, and
concussions are three of the most common sports injuries. If you have concerns
about your child's injuries, have your child examined by a doctor with
knowledge about injuries and sports. You can also look for information on some
of the more common sports-related injuries at the Web site of the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.aap.org or
Dr. Getzin is board certified in family medicine
and has a board certificate of added qualifications in sports medicine. He is
in practice at Cayuga Sports Medicine, where he can be reached at (607)
252-3580. Dr. Getzin also serves as medical director
of Island Health and Fitness.