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Children and Sports Injuries

Parents expect bumps and bruises when their children and teenagers play sports, ride bikes, go skateboarding or jump on trampolines.

Yet, when those pediatric sports injuries seem more serious — and especially if it's the weekend or evening — parents must make a tough decision: "Should we visit urgent care or the emergency department today? Or should we wait until tomorrow and see our pediatrician?"

After an Injury: When to Visit the Emergency Department

Take your child to go to the emergency department as soon as possible if your child exhibits any of the following injury-related symptoms:

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  • Any deformity, such as a shoulder at an odd angle.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Significant swelling that causes numbness.
  • Significant swelling, accompanied by an inability to tolerate weight or move normally.
  • Pain not controlled by over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Pain out of proportion to the injury.
  • Confusion, sleepiness and/or loss of consciousness for more than five seconds after a hit to the head.

Generally speaking, if you think your child cannot wait to see your pediatrician the next day, take him or her to emergency department today — especially if you are worried about your child's condition.

Common Injuries

At the emergency departments of both John C. Lincoln Hospitals, the most common injuries include concussions, clavicle fractures from playing football or soccer and forearm fractures from putting arms out to break a fall.

During the school year, physicians see injuries related to the sport of the season — football, basketball, baseball and track. In the summer, biking, skating and skateboarding injuries increase, even with the heat. As year-round soccer and other club sports become more popular, injuries are becoming less seasonal.

Specialized Treatment for Sports Injuries

John C. Lincoln's emergency departments offer a higher level of expertise in dealing with these injuries and all injuries. At each hospital, specialists are on staff to treat injuries that are more severe than a simple broken bone or sprained ankle.

Specialists also look for problems beyond the injury. When a 10-year-old patient arrived at John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital with a broken arm from a BMX accident, physicians also found a collapsed lung — a more serious issue.

As children grow into teenage athletes, and become serious about playing sports in college and beyond, proper, specialized treatment of sports injuries becomes more important. An orthopedic specialist may be brought into the treatment process, to insure that an injury heals properly.

For example, when a golf player recently had broken both forearms, an orthopedic surgeon was consulted before the bones were set in the emergency department, to make sure that the injury would have a minimal impact on his future golf game.

Getting Back into the Game

Physicians also can advise a teenage athlete — and parents — on recovery goals. Every athlete wants to play in the next game. However, a physician may offer much-need caution, so that the athlete doesn't push the recovery and turn a treatable injury into a nagging condition that persist for the rest of his or her playing career — or life.

Likewise, missing this next game can sometimes mean being physically ready to play in the playoffs.

Safety First

No matter what, kids will be kids. Teaching your child the following safety guidelines can help reduce injuries:

  • Always wear a helmet when riding anything with wheels, such as skates, a bike, scooter or skateboard.
  • Wear properly fitting, recommended equipment for your sport. For example, wear shin guards for soccer.
  • Play with others at your same level. Injuries often happen when younger kids play a rough game with older kids.
  • Stay well hydrated and warm up properly before playing.