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How to treat kids' sports injuries
EDITOR'S NOTE: Over the past few months, the Pamplin Media Group and InvestigateWest have taken an in-depth look at the impact of brain injuries on Oregon's young athletes in a series called "Rattled: Oregon's Concussion Discussion." As part of that coverage — which will continue through the rest of the year and into 2019 — The Review asked Lake Oswego orthopedic surgeon Dr. Britton Frome to share her insights about preventing and treating sports injuries in two Citizen's Views. Her first ran in the Sept. 13 issue of the newspaper; here's her second.
There's no denying that sports are a great way for our kids to learn life lessons, like being a team player and facing adversity. But even with the best preparation, your child might still get hurt; we can't protect our kids from every bruise, crash or break.
I'd like to share some insight from my practice as an orthopedic surgeon so you know the basics of what to do if your kid has a sports injury.
It's not surprising that the Centers for Disease Control says contact sports lead to injuries more than other sports. In fact, youth basketball, football, baseball and soccer account for about 80 percent of all sports-related ER visits for kids ages 5-14. For the 12-17 age group, sports-related injuries are the leading cause of ER visits.
Your child can sprain an ankle turning and cutting a soccer ball, or tumble on the field and break a wrist, but not all injuries require a lengthy visit to the ER. Sudden injuries ranging from fractures to cuts can be treated at a walk-in orthopedic clinic or urgent-care facility that has an orthopedic specialist on staff. Clinics without orthopedic physicians on hand typically stabilize injuries and refer you to a specialist, which could take a few days to more than a week.
While severe injuries need immediate medical attention, mild injuries can be treated at home using rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). If your child's injury continues to hurt after a few days of RICE or if your child is reluctant to bear weight on the injury, you need to have the injury evaluated by a specialist. Children's bones are growing and that makes them susceptible to fractures that can cause problems in the future if they go untreated.
Repetitive motion injuries are caused by doing the same motion again and again, such as pitching a baseball or swinging a tennis racket. If your child has developed a repetitive motion injury, she may complain about pain in a specific joint when she is playing sports. An orthopedic specialist will provide your child with a treatment plan and, when appropriate, a brace.
It may be a good idea to take a look at your child's schedule. Is she playing the same sport all year long, on multiple teams? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this can increase their risk of repetitive-motion injuries.
Make sure your child is completely healed before returning to play. Depending on the kind of injury, your child should be able to run without a limp, throw without difficulty, and have close to zero pain and swelling. Starting too soon increases the risk of a re-injury. A study that analyzed a decade of data concluded that recurrent injuries resulted in a higher likelihood of surgery.
Whether your kids play basketball, swim competitively or ride horses like my daughter, there's something unforgettable about cheering them on from the sidelines. As parents, we're there for them when they win, and we're there for them if they stumble and fall too.
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