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How to Keep Your Young Athlete Healthy

In the U.S., three out of four families have children who participate in sports, amounting to more than 45 million young athletes!

Sports can be a healthy childhood activity, providing children opportunities to engage in physical activity, discipline, friendships, sportsmanship and positive self-esteem.

But sports can come with risks, too. In fact, sports-related injuries are the second leading cause of pediatric E.R. visits.

No matter what sport your young one plays, here’s how you can help keep them healthy this season.

1. Schedule a Sports Physical.

For some parents, sports physicals can feel like an inconvenient, unnecessary chore that has to get taken care of before their child can start the season. But sports physicals are actually a first and important step to making sure your child stays healthy.

In a sports physical, medical providers screen for hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, eating disorders, joint and spine abnormalities, and cardiac problems that can cause early sudden death in young athletes.

2. Make Sure Equipment Fits Properly.

Since children grow quickly, the equipment that fit them last season (or even last month!) might not fit them now. It’s important to frequently check the shoes, helmets and other protective wear your child uses, and quickly replace whatever they’ve outgrown.

3. Encourage a Balanced Diet.

All children need to eat a balance of carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein in order to grow properly and avoid obesity, Type 2 diabetes, malnourishment and other diet-related issues. But it’s especially important for young athletes to eat a healthy diet, since they have increased demands on their heart, joints and spine. Carbohydrates give children the energy they need to engage in sports. And eating plenty of protein and healthy fats can not only keep them healthy, but also help them heal faster if they sustain an injury.

Also, make sure your young athlete drinks plenty of fluids before, during and after practices and competitions to avoid dehydration and other serious complications.

4. Follow Concussion Guidelines.

A concussion happens when someone sustains a jolt, bump or blow to the head, causing the brain to hit against the skull. In fact, the word "concussion" is derived from the Latin word concutere which means "to shake violently." Depending on the severity of the injury, the brain can sustain bruising, bleeding or nerve damage, which can lead to severe short-term and long-term neurologic problems.

If a child sustains a concussion, they need to stop playing immediately, and remain out of play for the recommended time (which depends on whether they’ve sustained a Grade 1, Grade 2 or Grade 3 concussion, and how symptomatic they are.)

Failure to strictly follow concussion guidelines can have serious consequences since recurrent head injuries have an exponential effect on the brain. A medical professional should evaluate your child at the time of the injury, and before the child returns to physical activity. Any child with severe symptoms, such as loss of consciousness, severe headache, seizure, vomiting, blurry vision or weakness should be taken to the E.R. immediately.

(Click here to read more about concussion guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology: https://www.aan.com/Guidelines/Home/GetGuidelineContent/586)

5. Don’t Ignore Orthopedic Injuries.

If your child sustains an injury to a joint or bone, it’s important to have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. It’s important to accurately diagnose and treat injuries in young people because their bones are in the process of growing (continuing into their early 20’s). An undiagnosed fracture or a mismanaged orthopedic injury in a pediatric patient can cause permanent deformities and abnormal development of their skeletal system. So if your child is injured, don’t tell them to “walk it off” until they’ve been cleared by a medical professional.

We're Here to Help.

At GoHealth Urgent Care, we provide same-day treatment of illnesses and injuries for children 6 months and older, including on-site X-rays. Click below to save your spot if your child needs medical attention.

Sources:

https://www.activekids.com/football/articles/youth-sports-participation-by-the-numbers

https://www.childrens.com/health-wellness/prevention-treatment-of-injuries-for-young-athletes

https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/pdfs/youthsports/athletes_eng.pdf

https://www.webmd.com/brain/concussion-traumatic-brain-injury-symptoms-causes-treatments#1

https://www.aan.com/Guidelines/Home/GetGuidelineContent/586

https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/healthy-bones-at-every-age/

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