School is almost out for the year, and summertime sports are about to be back in full swing!
From scoring touchdowns and making goals to becoming fast friends with their teammates, watching your kids achieve their goals and build a community by participating in sports is a great feeling. Along with all the benefits of being on a sports team come risks, some of which are heightened in the summer months.
We’re discussing some of the biggest risks for young athletes and the ways parents can help ensure their children have a fun, safe season.
Concussions happen when the brain moves rapidly inside the skull as a result of a blow, bump, or jolt to the head or body. Sports concussions have become somewhat of an epidemic in America, with the CDC estimating that 1.6 million to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities annually.
The symptoms of a concussion are usually noticeable not long after the injury occurs but sometimes can take days or weeks to recognize. Generally, you can gauge how serious a concussion is by the severity of its symptoms. If someone hits their head and starts displaying the following signs, it’s vital they seek medical help as soon as possible.
Symptoms of a concussion include:
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Memory problems
In some cases, concussions can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a debilitating brain condition that manifests as memory loss, depression, anxiety, headaches, and difficulty sleeping.
Because concussions and brain injuries are so serious, it’s imperative that your child’s coach understands the gravity of it and takes precautions against them. If your child plays a contact sport, specifically football, we encourage you to have conversations with their coach about how they’re prepared to avoid head injuries during the season, as well as their protocol if one occurs.
Aside from head injuries, common sports injuries include breaks, fractures, sprains, tears, and contusions. Younger athletes are most susceptible to injuries because their bodies are still growing.
Sports injuries are classified into two different groups — acute injuries and overuse injuries. When a sudden trauma such as a fall or collision results in an injury, it’s considered an acute injury. When an injury occurs gradually over time after repeated motion, it’s an overuse injury.
Tips on preventing sports injuries:
- Make sure the proper sports equipment is being used in games and practice.
- Invest in supportive, well-fitting shoes and uniform gear.
- Properly warm up with a variety of stretches and movements to prepare your body.
- Parents, find a coach that you trust who will put the well-being of your child first.
A sports injury can be a major disappointment to a player and their team. It’s essential that the player doesn’t rush back into playing, no matter how much pressure there may be to get back on the field or court. Rushing the healing process could result in irremediable damages that may lead to arthritis later in life or require surgery as an adult. If a sports injury does occur, seek proper treatment as soon as possible and follow safe guidelines for returning to the game.
A survey using 3,003 Americans found that a whopping 75 percent were chronically dehydrated, despite drinking about eight servings of hydrating liquids a day. Add sweaty practices and games outside in sweltering temperatures, and you’ve practically got a recipe for dehydration.
Dehydration can cause dizziness, fainting and weakness, shaking, and can also lead to heat exhaustion. Children who are overweight or obese, taking certain medication, are sick, or have a sunburn may be at higher risk. Urine color and the intensity of your thirst are good indicators of dehydration.
On game days, it’s best to avoid caffeine, foods saturated with salt, and other things that may be dehydrating.
Other ways kids can avoid dehydration include:
- Carrying a water bottle with them to class to replenish fluids during the day.
- Drinking a considerable amount of water one hour before exercising.
- Drinking 0.6 ounces of water for every 10 pounds of body weight every 20 minutes while exercising.
- 120 pounds – 7 ounces
- 150 pounds – 9 ounces
- 180 pounds – 11 ounces
Another negative effect of outdoor sports is sun exposure. One in five Americans develop skin cancer in their lifetime, so be sure to always protect your kids’ skin with sunscreen! We encourage keeping sunscreen in their gym bag to always have on hand.
Annual physicals are a common health checkup for your kids, but preparticipation physical exams, or PPEs, are specifically tailored for sports. PPEs check for any signs of injury or potential pain and risks in children that play sports.
Kids can’t always feel if something isn’t right, which is why it’s so important they’re evaluated for sports-specific risks. PPEs are especially valuable for players of contact sports such as lacrosse, football, and hockey, as they have a heightened risk for injuries.
A doctor can effectively evaluate if your child needs recovery, treatment, or maybe just needs to make one small change to how they play. Preventative care is invaluable when it comes to young athletes, as injuries and pain can sometimes cause lifelong issues. We encourage you to ask your pediatrician or healthcare provider for a PPE for your child before the season starts.
We know you are your little athlete’s No. 1 fan! So as youth sports kick back in gear, take the precautions to ensure your child’s safety is the number one priority.
If your child does suffer an injury or condition of any kind, Topeka ER & Hospital is here to help you 24/7, 365 days a year!