One of the biggest issues in the field of pediatric orthopedics today is the alarming number of sports-related injuries among children. While some of these injuries are an unavoidable part of playing contact sports, the majority of them can actually be prevented. One type of injury is acute, meaning it is the result of a single event. This type is a natural occurrence in sports, especially when they involve full contact with other players. Examples include shoulder dislocation, ankle sprain, or leg fracture. The best way to avoid acute injuries is through proper training and technique in whichever sport the child is playing. The other type of injury is called overuse.
Overuse injuries occur over time when a child participates in sports too much. When children play a variety of sports during different times of year, overuse injuries are less likely. This is because these children put strain on different muscles, bones, and joints with each sport that they play, so no single area is being overworked. Unfortunately, more and more children are concentrating on one sport all year long, leading to more overuse injuries. One reason that a child may devote so much time to one activity may be excessive pressure from parents to become a star athlete. Some parents even begin training their child in one sport when he or she is only six months old. In their efforts to decrease the number of sports-related injuries, many pediatric orthopedic doctors are trying to educate parents, coaches, and athletes about overuse.
These professionals warn people of the dangers and long-term effects of overuse injuries. While adult athletes are susceptible to the same type of injuries, their bodies are fully developed and therefore better able to recover from overuse. However, even professional adult athletes take time off to avoid these injuries. Growing children still have growth plates, which are areas of tissue around their joints. Eventually, bones replace these growth plates when the body finishes developing. Growth plates are weak compared to the rest of the skeleton, and injuries can cause abnormal bone growth or deformities later on. Overuse injuries can cause arthritis problems as the child reaches adulthood. They can also cause the child to be unable to play a certain sport for the rest of his or her life. Healthcare professionals in the fields of pediatric orthopedics and sports medicine are trying to reduce the overwhelming amount of overuse injuries among children.
One of the largest efforts to prevent these injuries is the STOP Sports Injuries campaign. Initiated by the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, this campaign utilizes media outlets, public service announcements, brochures and fact sheets, and numerous other tools to raise awareness about overuse injuries. Leaders and members of the campaign also participate in local community events throughout the United States. They warn parents and coaches that too much pressure to succeed at a certain sport can cause a child to keep quiet when he or she is experiencing pain. Part of the campaign’s educational materials focuses on the warning signs that parents and coaches can look for to spot an injury. Almost all injuries are better treated when they are detected as early as possible. In pediatric orthopedics especially, identifying and treating an injury quickly can prevent associated problems for the child later in life.
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