Sure, it is important to teach children to push themselves - physically and otherwise - but it isn’t the best idea to ignore those persisting aches and chronic fatigue that often come with the territory of playing a sport. Here’s a look at the most common sports injuries among children, as well as how to prevent and treat them.
It is an unfortunate truth that in many schools in India, ‘PT hour’ is an alias for ‘free period’. And, often nary a thought is given to the building of safe sports grounds on the premises. In addition, there is a dismal lack of awareness on warming up techniques as well as appropriate gear. Also, considering one-on-one supervision is near impossible in most centres of learning, the chances of children getting hurt is high. ParentCircle gets experts from the field to elaborate on this topic.
What are the most common sports related injuries among children?
Dr Madhu Thottappillil (sports medicine specialist with the TNCA and BCCI, and team doctor of Chennai Super Kings)
The most common injuries that I see in my practice are muscle strains and ligament sprains. In unorganised sports (typically after-school games/ kids playing in the colony), I normally encounter the aforementioned injuries due to direct trauma (cricket ball hitting body parts, hockey stick hitting legs or face, kick on the shins,etc).
In organised sport, the injuries depend on the game. Cricketers usually face shoulder strains, ankle sprains and back injuries. For footballers, it is knee and ankle ligament injuries, while in racquet sports (tennis, badminton, squash), wrist and shoulder strains, ankle sprains and back strains are common. Other than these, some common injuries are repetitive stress injuries, stress fractures (seen especially in young fast bowlers), dehydration and heat strokes, injuries to the growth plate due to trauma, and direct trauma injuries to eyes, face and head.
Dr Kannan Pugazhendi (multiple award-winning sports medicine professional, doctor to many sports and film stars)
Across the world, ankle sprains are the most common sports injuries. Fifty per cent of basketball, and 25 per cent of football and volleyball injuries are ankle-related, due to uneven surfaces. Next, are issues related to the muscular system as well as greenstick fractures (fracture in a young, soft bone in which the bone bends and breaks). Hamstring tears are common among kids who run. In those who are into games like basketball and volleyball, which require frequent jumping, a knee condition called Osgood Schlatter is prevalent.
What can schools do to prevent injuries on their premises?
Dr Gerd Mueller (German sports medicine expert)
Schools need to follow result-oriented sports strategies to prevent injuries amongst children. Emphasis should be on ideas sharing, fitness awareness programmes, warm-up and cool-down programmes, circuit training, relaxation techniques, Swiss ball exercises, medicine ball exercises, yoga and meditation, and body reflexes.
It is imperative that the training/sports facility is properly laid out. Schools must consider how safe their premises are with minimal supervision. They need to make sure appropriate safety measures are taken - for e.g., there needs to be soft padding to break falls when it comes to high jump. There are very clear rules about how school grounds need to be laid out. But these are widely ignored in India. Schools in India prefer to maintain natural grounds... which are inevitably uneven.
Read the article below for some great tips to prevent your child from an injury while playing.
What steps can parents take to ensure their children are protected?
The use of protective equipment depending on the sport (helmets, shin guards, football boots,etc) should be encouraged. Warming up and stretching before every sporting activity and cooling down after it must be implemented. Encourage children to participate in organised sports, so they are encouraged to learn the proper techniques. Also ensure their coaches have a fair understanding of injury management.
Children should not be given sports equipment and asked to play, without proper instructions. In many cases, students are pushed too much, too soon before tournaments and this can lead to injuries.
What precautions should we take to prevent sports injury?
A pre-competition assessment or check must be carried out to know if there are any warning signs such as fatigue or tiredness, symptoms such as disturbed sleep, muscle aches, pains and cramps, fatigue, etc. These could result from overtraining, faulty technique or movement, faulty equipment, violation of rules and the lack of protective gear.
Do not encourage children to play in spite of pain, because unlike in adults, it may have long-term adverse complications. Long-standing pain and discomfort should be assessed by a specialist.
Which sports are the most notorious for the injuries they cause?
(In the order of decreasing frequency) Football, wrestling, basketball, track, cross country, gymnastics, swimming, tennis and cricket.
What can you do when your child is injured on the field?
The player should immediately be shifted to safety. The most effective way to treat minor sprains and strains is to follow the RICE protocol - Rest (stop the activity), Ice (ice the injured portion), Compress (apply compression over the injured area), Elevation (elevate the injured area). Subsequently, the player should be taken to a sports injury specialist, for further evaluation and treatment. Fractures or deep cuts and injuries to the face should be splinted and seen by a specialist immediately. ANY injury to the eyes must be seen by an ophthalmologist immediately.
Ninety per cent of injuries are minor, and usually get better within a week or two. Other rarer injuries may take up to a few weeks or months.