Did you know that sports injuries account for nearly 3.2 million visits to the emergency room (ER) annually? In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that sports-related injuries are the leading cause of ER visits among children between the ages of 12 and 17.
Sports injuries are common and especially within youth athletics and recreational activities. The good news is that these injuries are highly preventable if you understand the highest risk sports, prevention techniques, and treatment options. At AFC Urgent Care Denver, we’re provided a handy guide on how to best treat, manage, and prevent unexpected sports injuries.
So what should parents and student athletes understand about sports injuries and how to effectively address them?
The highest risk youth sports by injury rate and prevalence, highest rate of injury by injury type:
According to the CDC, contact sports present the greatest risk for a youth sports injury since they require players to either hit or physically stop other players. Football, basketball, baseball, and soccer account for 80 percent of all youth sport injury emergency room visits.
Specifically, Stanford’s Children Health compiled specific sport injury rates based on children ages 5 to 14 years of age:
- Football – Approximately 250,000 a year are likely to need extensive medical treatment for a sports-related injury from football.
- Bicycling – Close to 200,000 children each year require treatment from bicycle-related injuries.
- Basketball – 170,000 children are treated for basketball injuries in a given year.
- Soccer – Nearly 88,000 student-athletes a year require medical treatment from a soccer injury
- Baseball/Softball – 110,000 children each year require treatment for a baseball or softball-related injury.
Many popular youth sports lead to injury, but it is also important to know what types of sports injuries young children and adults usually experience. The most common types of sports injuries include:
- Ankle sprain
- Groin pulls
- Shin splint
- Knee injuries and ACL tear
- Tennis elbow
Strains and sprains are the most common injury regardless of sport while head injuries are usually more common in contact sports like football, ice hockey, rugby, and similar contact sports.
What should you do when your child experiences a sports injury?
During most athletic events, a sports trainer or medic is usually in attendance to make sure they can perform first aid for any athlete that requires medical attention. However, you may want to make sure you have a spare first-aid kit on you in case the trainer can’t immediately stabilize an injury.
The first-aid basics for most sports injuries includes:
- Make sure the surrounding area is safe to perform first-aid
- Avoid any increased physical activity and begin other first-aid steps
- Reduce swelling with ice and compression
- Stabilize the injured limb and try and keep the weight off it as appropriate
- Coordinate appropriate medical treatment: either take the athlete to an urgent care facility or the ER if the injury requires medical attention.
Sometimes an injury may include a cut or a head injury. For cuts, make sure that you clean the wound with antibiotics and use a gauze as appropriate. Head injuries usually require extra evaluation with an MRI or a CT scan to see if the patient has a concussion. Concussions can be a scary diagnosis but are treatable with rest and other instructions from your provider.
Sports injuries are highly preventable with some basic techniques and skills
The best time to help your child prevent a sports-related injury is right before the start of an athletic competition. Here are a few steps for you and your child to help prevent sports injuries:
Physical Exams – Most interscholastic sports require a physical exam in order to begin a new sport or activity. However, getting a physical at other times can never hurts and allows you to double check if your child is at an increased risk for an injury.
Engage in sports with experienced coaches – Coaches that are more experienced can help your child prevent injuries and teach them defensive skills to stay healthy both on and off the field.
Check equipment and athletic gear – An important part in reducing sports injuries includes making sure your child has all the appropriate equipment for their sport. Check any equipment you buy for your child as well as any equipment provided by a school or similar organization. Make sure to speak with your child’s coach if there is a significant issue with equipment.
Make sure your child stretches frequently before a game/match – Stretching is one of the best ways to prevent common sports injuries including sprains and muscle pulls. A good benchmark for the time between stretching and the start of an athletic event is usually 15 minutes prior to a sport.
These are just a few ways to help treat and manage your child’s sports injuries. And as always a nearby urgent care center is a great resource to help manage any acute injuries that don’t require immediate medical attention.
Patients located across Denver can visit one of our four AFC Urgent Care centers for fast, reliable, and affordable care. And for residents near the Denver Speer neighborhood, make sure to come to our location right on Speer Boulevard!