How To Reduce the Risk of Injury in Children's Sports

When you sign your child up to play sports, your first thought probably isn’t that they’re going to get injured. You want your young athlete to reap the benefits of sports participation – stronger self-esteem, work ethic and camaraderie, not to mention better overall health.

“Sixty minutes of play every day is important to keeping kids active and healthy, and to maintaining good cardiovascular health,” according to Dr. J.D. Zipkin, Associate Medical Director with Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care.

But injuries in children are a reality of the game, regardless of what game. have the potential for injury, whether it’s a high contact sport like football or a seemingly more benign activity like tennis.

In fact, show that of the nearly 30 million children and teens who participate in youth sports, more than 3.5 million receive medical treatment for sports injuries annually.

Why Are Children More Susceptible to Sports Injuries?

The musculoskeletal system of a child is different from that of an adult. Certain physical and physiological factors put them at greater risk for injury, according to the .

Children’s bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are still growing, which makes them more susceptible to injury. Since it’s the weakest part of a child’s body, growth plates at the end of long bones are especially prone to sports injuries.

An injury to the ankle, for example, that would cause a sprain in an adult is likely to result in a bone fracture in a child, leading to impaired growth. Plus, children lack the strength, coordination and stamina of adult athletes.

Top 6 Tips to Prevent Sports Injuries

While the number of kids’ sports injuries might be striking, what’s even more striking is how many injuries could be prevented. The estimate that over half of all sport injuries in kids are avoidable.

Injury prevention starts with you! As a parent, you have the ability to educate your child on the causes of sport injuries and the importance of safety when on the field, in the rink or on the court.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to protect your young athlete from sports injuries this season and year-round.

1. Get a Sports Physical

If your child is planning on participating in a sport this season, it's important to ensure they're in proper physical condition to play. A pre-partcipation physical exam (PPE) can help find if there are any underlying problems that could stop your child from competing safely.

Because GoHealth Urgent Care centers have access to in-network patients' previous medical records, we can review any notes from your primary care physician before doing our own examination.

2. Abide by the Rules of the Game

Sports rules are designed to help prevent children’s sports injuries. They define what is allowed and not allowed to happen during certain situations throughout competition. They also govern such things as appropriate protective gear.

Dr. Colin Stack, Medical Director at Hartford Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, suggests parents ask explicit questions about what happened during practice to ensure their kids are using the right equipment the right way.

3. Warm up & Cool Down

From improved performance to reduced soreness following play, there are many reasons you shouldn’t skip your warm up before and after practice or a game,. But the most significant reason for warm up and cool down exercises is to prevent injury.

Warming up muscle groups with sport-specific exercises can help prevent different types of sports injuries and keep your young athlete off the sidelines.

4. Stay Hydrated

You know that is important during sports and exercise, but being properly hydrated can help reduce the risk of injury. Water in your system ensures muscles, joints and blood vessels are functioning properly.

If your child fails to hydrate, it can lead to muscle fatigue, confusion and loss of coordination, which can impact their performance. 

5. Don’t Overdo It

One of the most common types of sports-related injuries medical professionals are seeing is . Unlike acute injuries that are caused by a sudden trauma, these types of sports injuries happen gradually over time.

Overuse injuries occur most frequently in children who play one sport, since repetitive motions can cause microtrauma to tendons, bones and joints.

Athletes, especially in kids’ sports, require for peak performance. Also keep in mind that the mantra “no pain, no gain” is dangerous. If you child is experiencing pain, talk to their coach about keeping them out of the game until they’re feeling better.

6. Have Fun

We can all get wrapped up in the spirit of winning. But, as a parent, you have the opportunity to ensure you foster an atmosphere of healthy competition that focuses on more than just the scoreboard.

Both Drs. Stack and Zipkin agree, “behavior modeling is key.” When you follow safety measures and encourage your young athlete to have fun, chances are they’ll have an overall that will keep them active in their sport for years to come.

Treating Child Sports Injuries at Urgent Care

Even when proper safety measures are taken, it’s possible for your child to get injured playing sports. The type of injury sustained will determine what course of treatment is best. Most sports-related injuries are minor, like sprains or strains, and can be treated at home with the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevation) treatment method.

But if pain with these injuries doesn’t subside, or your child suffers more severe injuries, GoHealth Urgent Care can help. Our family-centered care facilities are open in the evening and on weekends after practice and games, and we offer X-ray and MRI diagnostics to check for broken bones and ACL injuries.

Our healthcare providers can also perform a neurologic exam to diagnose brain injuries like . Depending on what injury your child is being treated for, we might also refer you to an in-network sports medicine specialist or physical therapist for follow-up.

While uncommon, if your child were to suffer a life-threatening injury, you should head straight to the hospital emergency room.

Find out more information on based on the sports your child plays.