Optimizing Activities Without Injury
By Gupta, MD, FAAOS and Ashish Sahai, MD / May - June, 2011

The school year is quickly coming to an end quickly. Parents are beginning to enroll their children in summer camps. The last thing any parent wants is a dreaded phone call informing him or her that a child is injured. Maximizing your child's summer experience is easy.

Children often forget to hydrate. Water is essential for the body to run well. Hydration allows muscles to work properly and assists in avoiding cramps and spasms. See that your child takes water breaks every thirty minutes or more often, based on the level of activity and temperature.

Warming up before an activity involves gradually bringing the heart rate up from the resting level by engaging in low-impact exercise such as jogging in place (this is especially important for kids in sports camps). Children should also stretch their muscles to release tension and help prevent injury. Stretching involves going just beyond the point of resistance and should not include bouncing. Stretches should be held for about ten seconds.

Cooling down after an activity allows children's heart rate to gradually return to a resting level. Keep in mind that stretching may be helpful to avoid injury. Children who play sports year-round are more likely than others to experience overuse injuries because they aren't giving their bodies a chance to rest and recover. Suggest ways for your child to mix up their activities. Encourage your child to play different sports during the year to avoid using the same muscle groups continuously, which can also lead to overuse injuries.

Kids sustain two common types of injuries: acute and overuse. Dr. Manish Gupta of Specialty Orthopedic Center states, "Acute injuries usually result from a single, traumatic event and may include wrist fracture, ankle sprain, and shoulder dislocation."

Overuse injuries are more difficult to diagnose and treat because they are usually subtle and occur over time. When repetitive trauma affects the tendons, bones, and joints, an overuse injury develops. Common examples include tennis elbow, swimmer's shoulder, Achilles tendonitis, and stress fractures.

Most children will let you know when they are hurt, but for those kids who try to tough it out, parent and caregivers should watch for signs of injury such as:
  • Avoiding putting weight on a certain body part or favoring one side of the body over the other
  • Appearing to be in pain when using a particular body part
  • Inability to sleep
  • Shortness of breath/trouble breathing during activity
  • Headaches during or after activity
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

    If your child experiences sharp, stabbing pain, he/she should stop the activity immediately. Dr. Gupta states, "Playing through pain may make the injury worse. if you have any concerns that your child might be injured, speak with a physician."

    The sooner an injury is diagnosed, the more effectively it can be treated.

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