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Help Your Child Avoid Sports Injuries

Help Your Child Avoid Sports Injuries

kids sports

Is your little one an aspiring Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan or Mia Ham? Participating in athletics is a phenomenal way for kids to stay in shape, meet new friends and learn to work as a team. However, sports are not without risk.  As preventive-care specialists, Drs. Greg & Kim Stetzel are concerned about the alarming rate of sports-related injury among youths. Read on to learn if your child is at risk – and how to ward off injuries before they land your youngster on the sidelines.


Risky Business

Think your child is immune from a serious sports-related injury? Think again. According to a review of 16,997 emergency room (ER) visits in 496 hospitals, injury is a common occurrence among young athletes.  The study’s authors estimate that 2.6 million sports-related ER visits each year involve children or young adults – accounting for more than 68 percent of all sports’ injuries treated in the ER and 20 percent of all ER visits for patients between the ages of five and 24. Males in this age group are more than twice as likely to require emergency care for a sports’ injury, compared with females, according to researchers. Basketball and cycling are the most common causes of sports’ injuries (Annals of Emergency Medicine 2001;37:301-8).


Hidden Dangers

Most children with sports’ injuries don’t end up in the ER. Some injuries are more insidious and may not involve immediate pain.  For example, chiropractors often care for youngsters with a spinal condition called vertebral subluxation – a disorder that may be triggered by impact activities, such as sports.

Vertebral subluxation occurs when spinal movement is restricted, or when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) become misaligned. Young athletes may develop vertebral subluxations from a myriad of sports activities, such as sliding into home base, jumping to block a soccer goal, landing from a handspring, improperly swinging a golf club or tackling a football opponent. Jarring motions to the spine, such as those produced by sprinting on hard ground, may also trigger this common ailment.  Vertebral subluxations are associated with a variety of health problems. Scientific research links this condition with a bolstered risk of ear infection, headache, neck pain, back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.What’s most frightening about vertebral subluxations is that they don’t always produce immediate symptoms. Pain may take months, or even years, to manifest itself although a loss of function may occur much earlier.

Fortunately, you can keep your child subluxation-free by scheduling him or her for regular chiropractic checkups. During the checkups, your youngster’s spine will be evaluated for signs of vertebral subluxation. If subluxations are detected, Dr. Stetzel will work to correct them using gentle and safe maneuvers called chiropractic adjustments – specially customized for pediatric patients. In addition, Dr. Stetzel will discuss strategies for preventing sports related injuries with your child.


Shoe Savvy

Those purple high-tops with the loosely-tied florescent laces may look hip, but the injuries they aggravate are anything but cool. Many of the footwear styles popular with today’s youths provide little protection. Lack of cushioning increases the risk of impact-related injuries such as stress fracture and shin splints. Flimsy arch support allows the foot to roll inward, in turn disrupting the alignment of the leg, knee and hips. Skewed posture in the lower limbs results in a disproportionate allocation of force on joints during walking or running – spurring injury. Shoes with “air cell” soles also fail to properly distribute pressure. Because the hips are connected to the spine, inadequate footwear may even spawn vertebral subluxations and back pain.

Reduce your child’s risk of injury by investing in quality athletic shoes prior to each season. Look for sneakers with adequate cushioning and arch support. Some children also benefit from custom-made inserts. Other young athletes require braces or taping.


Safety First

Lack of safety equipment and faulty equipment are major causes of childhood sports’ injuries. While most coaches insist on using appropriate equipment during organized practices, many youngsters fail to use such safe guards when practicing on their own.  Be adamant that your children AL WAYS use safety gear while practicing. To ensure this occurs, make your wishes known to the respective coaches. Most importantly, don’t forget to set a good example. Always wear a helmet while bicycling, strap on shin guards while scrimmaging with your kids and use protective gear for all your sports endeavors.

Stretching is another good “follow my example” suggestion for parents. Stretching – before and after exercise – is crucial for anyone wishing to avoid a sports-related injury. You wouldn’t think of starting your car on a cold morning and not letting it warm up for a few minutes before zooming off. Doesn’t your body deserve an appropriate warm-up too?


Training Time

To keep your children injury-free during the sports’ season, keep them active throughout the off-season. Just like adults, a dramatic increase in children’s workout intensity will spur muscle strain. Unfortunately, the drastic cutbacks in many schools’ physical education curriculums have resulted in poor-quality programs or no programs at all. So, enroll your children in exercise classes when they aren’t playing sports. Or, make a point to exercise with your children several days a week. Maintain your youngsters’ interest by scheduling a variety of activities with other families, such as hikes, bike rides and softball games.


Say “Goodnight” to Injury

Adhering to a strict bedtime schedule may not only keep children yawn free but injury-free as well.  According to Dr. Fabio Barbone and colleagues at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, sleep deprivation increases a child’s odds of injury (Pediatrics 2001;1O7:e23).  As part of the analysis, researchers studied 292 injured children in Italy.  “We found that children, especially boys ages 3 to 5, who don’t get enough sleep are at significantly greater risk for injuries,” said Dr. Barbone. “We also found that children who have been awake for at least eight hours without sleep or a nap are four times more likely to suffer an injury.”


Winning Attitude

When it comes to childhood sports, an attitude that de-emphasizes winning is a true winning attitude. Parents and coaches who stress winning over having fun set young athletes on a collision course with anxiety and emotional problems. This psychological stress also predisposes youngsters to physical injury.

It’s also important to allow children to have input into what sports they play and not force them to play any particular sport. Expose your youngsters to a variety of athletic activities and encourage them to choose those they find most exciting.


Size ‘Em Up

Extramural sports organizations tend to divide would-be athletes into teams according to chronological age or grade level. However, this delineation may be hazardous for children who are small for their age or young for their grade level. So, make every effort to enroll your child in a team that includes children of the same size and maturity level.


Have questions about how to keep your little one free from sports’ injury? Is your child getting ready to start a new sports season?  Bring them in for a complimentary consultation and  screening evaluation.  Ask us for specific recommendations custom-tailored for your child and their unique needs.  We would also be happy to schedule an Injury Prevention Workshop for your child’s team.  Call the office to schedule at (973)948-5556.






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