What to do when your young jock takes a hard knock

You’re in the stands cheering. There’s a whistle – and it’s your son or daughter on the ground or court surrounded by concerned-looking coaches and teammates. You start breathing again when you see your child stand up, wave to you and seemingly take the blow in stride. No broken bones. No sign of limping. It doesn’t look like it was a serious knock… this time. But you’re worried, aren’t you? 

Each year, approximately 46.6 million U.S. children play a team sport, and sports-related injuries send an estimated 12 million young athletes between the ages of 5 and 22 to the emergency room. The largest number, 37 percent, are from ages 13 to 15. 

Orthopedic and spine Injuries

The most common sports injuries include muscle sprains and strains, tendon injuries, dislocations, fractures, broken bones, and spine injuries. Remember, even though your young athlete wasn’t whisked away by ambulance or you didn’t rush them to the ER with an immediately apparent injury, it can still take several hours for the bruising, swelling and pain of an orthopedic injury to develop. If the injury is minor, you can treat it at home with Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE) for the first 48 hours. For pain relief, offer a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen or naproxen. Never give aspirin to anyone under age 20 due to the risk of Reye syndrome, a rare but serious disease that targets the brain and liver.

Don’t hesitate to head to the emergency room if the injury causes severe pain, swelling or numbness or the injured area feels unstable or cannot bear any weight or pressure.

Concussion and head injuries

Always be watchful for signs of concussion in your young athlete, whether he or she lost consciousness or not! Concussions account for about 12 percent of youth sports-related injuries. And concussions aren’t only seen on the football field and definitely aren’t limited to boys. Here are a few facts that may surprise you:

  • In youth basketball, almost 12 percent of girls seen in the emergency department were diagnosed with concussions compared to 7 percent of boys."�
  • In youth soccer, 17 percent of girls seen in the emergency department were diagnosed with a concussion compared to 12 percent of boys.
  • It takes longer for athletes ages 13 to 16 to recover following a concussion than athletes ages 18 to 22."�

Signs of concussion can be immediate or develop over hours or days. These include:  

  • Headache 
  • Dizziness
  • Seeing “stars”
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Appearing dazed
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow response to questions
  • Memory problems
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigue and wanting to sleep 
  • Irritability or changes in personality.

Other signs of serious head injury include: worsening headache or pressure, seizures, repeated vomiting, pupils that are abnormally or unevenly dilated, and obvious changes in mental or physical function.

Always seek emergency care if you suspect a child or adult has a concussion.