Kids & Sports: Injuries, Benefits & More

Rotationplasty Child Limb Sparing Surgery AlternativeSporting activities are highly beneficial for kids, both mentally and physically, but these activities are not without risk. It’s best to find an approach to address the potential danger that rests somewhere between bubble-wrapping your kid and prescribing the old “Walk it off and rub some dirt on it.”

Dr. Lee Kneer, a sports medicine physician at Emory Sports Medicine Center and a team physician for the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves, details some of the most common sports injuries and what parents can do to help prevent them from happening.

The Most Common Injuries among Kids

Contusions, sprains, and traumatic events are most common among kids, whereas their adult counterparts often face debilitating overuse injuries. Think bruises, twisted ankles, and falls.

How to Best Prevent Injury

Identify the risk factors in each sport and make sure kids wear protective equipment. Prevention can also come in the form of limiting time on the field or court. Dr. Kneer points to what has been especially prevalent in youth soccer to help mitigate the risk of concussions by minimizing the amount of exposures to those events.

Finally, kids should be encouraged to train without over-training.

Stretching: Not the Be-All and End-All

“Most kids are fairly flexible to begin with, and in all honesty, stretching in most sports has never been shown to be protective of injury,” explains Dr. Kneer. He suggests focusing on postural control, which can be as simple as standing on one foot and moving the body around or closing one’s eyes while trying to maintain balance.

Variety Is the Spice of Life… And Key to Injury Prevention

Playing different sports puts stresses on different parts of the body rather than overstressing one part with repetition. Picking up an additional sport helps improve your overall athletic development.

“I have two young children myself, and I’ve trained my five-year-old to repeat the mantra of ‘playing basketball will make me better at baseball, playing baseball will make me better at soccer,’ and so on and so forth,” says Dr. Kneer.

Kids also won’t know which sport is “their sport” until they try it. Dr. Kneer, a life-long runner would never have run marathons and ultra-marathons were he not late for tennis tryouts in high school and stumbled across the cross country tryouts.

RICE: More Than a Carb

RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, is a traditional remedy for minor injuries. Ice is especially important. “I would never use heat in the acute setting,” advises Dr. Kneer. “Think of heat as a pro-inflammatory. When the spot of injury gets warm, your blood vessels will expand to allow more blood flow to the area. When you first injure something, you want to restrict blood flow to that area.”

In later stages of recovery, heat can be helpful for the muscles. Dr. Kneer suggests a warm-up/cool-down method at that point. Heat in the morning to get the body moving and ice in the evening to deal with the day’s inflammation.

Get a Physical

Physicals are important to help identify potential medical concerns that might not be apparent in an otherwise healthy kid. Hernias or cardiac abnormalities are concerns you want to discover before they cause problems. It’s better to identify potential conditions than not know they exist.

Youth Football

Limiting the accumulation of exposures is key. “In my personal and professional opinion, I would rather a kid avoid the number of times he has head-to-head contact until his body is a bit more mature to deal with the impact,” states Dr. Kneer. “That may mean restricting football to middle school ages rather than earlier on with Pee-Wee football.”

Dr. Kneer would never tell kids they couldn’t play football. That said, if a kid loves football, he or she is going to love it just as much in middle and high school as at six or seven.

Benefits of Sports

Sports help with whole-body development, whether it’s a second identity, the ability to deal with wins and losses, body confidence, or discipline. Just as academics or playing a musical instrument contribute to the ability to work toward a longer-term goal, so do sports.

Watching Your Kid Is Great; Participating with Them Is Even Better

“As parents, I think we more often get pushed to the side as spectators, but the more you’re involved with your kids, the more opportunities exist to connect with them,” shares Dr. Kneer. “I find that with my kids, they start talking about topics I would never have heard about aside from the setting of being ‘comfortable’ while we’re playing sports.”

To learn more, visit emoryhealthcare.org/sports or listen to the full interview with Lee Kneer, MD.