Basketball game

While playing on a sports team can be fun and healthy for kids, it also comes with the potential for pediatric injury.

If your child suffers a pediatric sports injury on the playing field, it’s important to know how to recognize it and find the best treatment. Read on to learn what you should do if your child gets hurt, and when to visit a doctor.

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Types of Pediatric Sports Injuries

According to the National Institutes of Health, some of the most common types of sports injuries in kids are:

  • Muscle strains and joint sprains
  • Overuse injuries

But your child can also suffer a sports injury that warrants evaluation by a doctor, such as:

  • Growth plate injury
  • Concussion/spinal cord injury
  • Broken bone
  • Dislocated joint

Common injuries can be treated at home at first, but if there is any concern for a severe injury, you should take your child to the emergency room immediately.

Recognizing and Treating Common Sports Injuries in Kids

Before determining whether your child needs treatment for a pediatric injury, it’s important to know what causes them.

  • Muscle strains and joint sprains: Sprains and strains are extremely common and can happen even during mild physical activity. A sprain is a tear in a ligament, the connective tissue between bones. A strain is a small tear in, or over-stretching of, a muscle or tendon.
  • Overuse injury: According to KidsHealth, overuse injuries result from repetitive motion that puts stress on bones and muscles. For instance, a baseball catcher might develop an overuse injury in his or her knees from repeated squatting. (ex. patellartendonitis)
  • Growth plate injury: Growth plates are bundles of tissue at the ends of children’s bones that can be susceptible to injury. They can occur from trauma or repetitive stress.

A sports injury in any of these categories can be extremely painful, but there are often few external signs. The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine explains that, even if you can’t see obvious cuts or bruises, your child may be injured if:

  • They avoid putting weight on a specific body part or appears to be in pain when using it
  • They have trouble sleeping
  • They have trouble breathing and/or headaches during physical activity
  • They appear to have stiffness in joints or muscles, or struggles with everyday activities like climbing the stairs
  • They are dizzy or lightheaded, or can’t feel their fingers or toes
  • They are unusually weak

If your child does have an injury, but it doesn’t require emergency care, start treatment with the R.I.C.E. method:

  • Rest the injured area
  • Ice the area for 15-20 minutes at a time, every two to three hours, and continue regularly for two to three days
  • Compress the injury with elastic wrap or a compression sock. Loosen the wrap if numbness, discoloration, or temperature changes occur
  • Elevate the area so it’s above the heart to control swelling

See a doctor if:

  • Your child has sharp, stabbing pain
  • The injured area is swollen for more than a few days after the injury
  • Your child has pain from an overuse injury for more than a few weeks, even while using the R.I.C.E. method

Talk to the experts at the UPMC Sports Medicine to learn more about treating and preventing pediatric sports injuries, or visit our Saturday Injury Clinic at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.