FRIDAY, Oct. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Sports participation among
children and teens is a welcome trend, as it teaches teamwork and
lays the groundwork for lifelong exercise, experts agree. Not so
good, however, are the high rates of injury.
About 38 million kids and teens in the United States are in
organized sports, according to the U.S. National Institutes of
Health. And about one in 10 needs medical attention for a sports
injury, according to Safe Kids USA, an advocacy group.
The organization has launched an educational initiative,
supported by Johnson & Johnson, aimed at reducing the injuries
by educating parents, kids and coaches.
"What we are really trying to draw attention to is, a lot of these injuries can hopefully be prevented," said Dr. Jamie Freishtat, a pediatrician, spokesperson and blogger for Safe Kids USA.
The wide range of injuries includes scrapes and bruises, sprains
and strains, head injuries, heat-related injuries, and even
Some injuries are what doctors call acute -- a fracture or torn
ligament are examples -- or caused by the gradual effects of muscle
overuse. "The muscle just fatigues out," said Dr. John Hurley, an
orthopedic surgeon at Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights,
N.J., who is working with Safe Kids USA.
"These kids are specializing in sports when they are 7 or 8," he said, and the trend is not healthy. He is against a child playing the same sport for 12 months straight because it invites overuse injuries.
Parents can do much to reverse the injury statistics, Hurley and
Freishtat agreed. Their tips:
- Get a pre-participation physical for your child -- even if it
isn't required. This should include an extensive medical history,
including family history, Freishtat said. "The purpose is to
promote health and safety, not exclude [the child from
- Help your child create healthy, realistic goals. This means
such endpoints as fostering friendships, team building and
sportsmanship. Unrealistic goals, Freishtat said, are expecting
perfection and never allowing for mistakes. Some parents expect all
kids to perform equally, she said, and that's also not
- Mix up the sports. Such cross-training is good, Hurley said.
Strength training can help reduce over-use injuries, too, he said.
Kids can start at 10 or 11, with their doctor's permission, using
light weights and multiple repetitions.
- Be involved in your kids' sports. That doesn't mean coaching
from the sidelines, Freishstat said. Rather, have conversations
with the coach and ask about healthy practices such as water breaks
(every 20 minutes) and whether the coaches are certified in CPR and
- Don't skimp on equipment. Proper equipment -- helmets and shin
guards, for example -- can go a long way toward preventing injury,
experts agreed. "Make sure it fits correctly and is well
maintained," Freishtat said.
- Pay attention to your young athlete's symptoms and mood. Forget
the "tough it out" approach, Freishtat said. Some soreness is
normal, but not long term. "If a child is sore for more than a week
or two, something is going on," Hurley said.
The advice hits home for Wendy Ferrara of Mt. Arlington, N.J.,
whose son, Andrew, now 13, tore a ligament when pitching in a
championship game last spring. "He had been experiencing some arm
pain," she said, but he and his mother thought it was normal aches
During the big game, a fastball escalated the pain. "When I
pitched that ball I heard a crack and a pop in my elbow," Andrew
said. Soon after, an MRI showed a partial tear of an elbow
Hurley, who cared for him, gave him strict orders: No pitching
for a year.
The year is up next May, and Andrew is abiding by doctor's
orders. After 18 physical therapy sessions, his elbow is much
better. But now, Andrew mixes it up. He's playing football this
fall, leaving baseball for a time.
"I love to pitch," he said. But he's thinking long-term. So he'll wait it out, cross train, and pay much more attention to pain in the future, he said.
To learn more about keeping kids injury-free, visit