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What are Adolescent Sports Injuries?

Adolescent sports injuries are injuries that occur in children between 10 and19 years of age most commonly during sports and exercises. These injuries may result from accidents, poor training practices, use of improper protective gear, lack of conditioning, and insufficient warm-up and stretching. The sports injuries may be either acute (sprains, fractures, tears) or chronic (tendinitis, overuse injury) injuries. Common adolescent sports include football, soccer, baseball, softball, tennis, and hockey.

Types of Adolescent Sports Injuries

Common types of sports injuries in adolescents include:

  • Ligament Injuries: Ligaments are bands of tough elastic tissue around your joints. They connect one bone to another. Ligaments are present in your knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows, and other joints. Any injury to the ligament is referred to as a sprain. Knee and ankle sprains are perhaps the most common sports injury that adolescents suffer from.
  • Tendon or Muscle Injuries: Tendons are powerful fibrous cords that connect muscle to bone. When you overstretch a tendon, it can rupture (tear) completely or partially. This rupturing of the tendon due to overstretching is known as a tendon injury.
  • Fractures and Dislocations: A fracture is a break in the continuity of a bone. A dislocation refers to separation of two bones where they connect at a joint. Fracture of bones and dislocation of ball and socket joints such as those noted in the shoulder are significant traumas that are extremely painful and require immediate medical attention.
  • Injuries of the Bone Growth Plate: The bony growth plates are tissues developing at the end of long bones such as bones of the arms and legs in children and adolescents. The growth plate solidifies into solid bone once the child has attained complete growth. Any injury to the growth plate can impact normal bone development of children.
  • Exhaustion and Dehydration: Exhaustion and dehydration are a real possibility if the environment is hot and the children are not drinking sufficient amounts of fluid. This could result in heatstroke which includes dizziness, disorientation, concussion, and even fainting spells.

Signs and Symptoms of Adolescent Sports Injuries

Some of the common signs and symptoms of adolescent sports injuries include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Numbness
  • Concussion
  • Cuts and abrasions
  • Fracture
  • Joint instability
  • Inability to bear weight on the injured area

Diagnosis of Adolescent Sports Injuries

Adolescent sports injuries are diagnosed with a detailed medical review and thorough physical examination. Your doctor may also order certain imaging studies such as X-rays, MRI, and CT scans for a detailed evaluation of damage to bones and soft tissues and to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for Adolescent Sports Injuries

The most common treatment recommended for adolescent sports injuries is rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). The RICE method needs to be followed immediately after injury to relieve pain and inflammation and should be continued for at least 48 hours.

  • Rest: You should take rest from regular exercises or daily activities as needed.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 20 minutes at a time. This should be done four to eight times a day. A cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel can be used.
  • Compression: Compress the injured area with elastic wraps, special boots, air casts, and splints to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated on a pillow, above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling.

Your doctor may recommend other treatments to help your injury heal. These include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can be taken to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Immobilization: Immobilization is minimizing or eliminating the movement of the injured area to prevent further damage and promote healing. Casting and splinting are the commonly rendered non-surgical treatment options for injuries related to the bones and soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments). It helps to stabilize fractures and reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.
  • Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation involves exercises that get the injured area back to normal condition. Exercise starts with gentle range-of-motion exercises followed by stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Other therapies: Other common therapies that help in the healing of sports injuries include mild electrical currents (electrostimulation), cold packs or cryotherapy, heat packs or thermotherapy, high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound), massage, and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
  • Surgery: Surgery is the last resort for management of adolescent sports injuries and is indicated only if conservative techniques are not helpful. Surgery is performed to repair torn tendons and ligaments or to realign broken bones. Your surgeon may recommend a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure or an open technique with a larger incision to treat your sports injuries.

Prevention of Adolescent Sports Injuries

Some of the measures that should be followed to prevent adolescent sports injuries include:

  • Follow an exercise program to strengthen the muscles.
  • Gradually increase your exercise level and avoid overdoing the exercise.
  • Ensure that you wear properly-fitted protective gear such as elbow guards, eye gear, facemasks, mouthguards, and pads, comfortable clothes, and athletic shoes before playing any sports activity. This will help to reduce the chances of injury.
  • Make sure that you follow warm-up and cool-down exercises before and after sports activities. Exercises will help to stretch the muscles, increase flexibility, and reduce soft tissue injuries.
  • Avoid exercising immediately after eating a large meal.
  • Maintain a healthy diet that will nourish the muscles.
  • Avoid playing when you are injured or tired. Take a break for some time after playing.
  • Learn all the rules of the game you are participating in.
  • Ensure that you are physically fit to play the sport.
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • American Association for Hand Surgery
  • American Academy Of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • The American Board of Pediatrics
  • North American Spine Society
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