Almost three-quarters of a million children are treated in emergency rooms every year for sports-related injuries. Ninety-five percent of these injuries are minor cuts, abrasions, bruises and pulled muscles. Here are some tips for dealing with youth athletic injuries.
The acronym RICE is used as a guide for strains, sprains, bumps and bruises:
- Rest: Take the child out of the game.
- Ice: Apply ice or cold compresses to the affected area.
- Compression: Wrap the injured joint with elastic bandages if needed.
- Elevation: Raise the injured hand, arm, leg or foot.
When a child is injured, try to determine how much pain he or she is having by using a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being "a lot of pain."
If the pain remains moderate to severe (5 to 10) after about 10 minutes, and if swelling is increasing, the joint looks abnormal (dislocated), the child cannot move the affected part in a normal "range of motion," or cannot bear weight on the injured foot or leg, call your doctor.
If severe bleeding or difficulty breathing is present, call emergency services.
For head and possible neck injuries, the child may experience numbness in the arms and legs and he or she may seem dazed or confused. Keep the child still and call for emergency services.
Make sure players wear protective mouth gear for contact sports.
About 50 percent of all children will have a fracture (broken bone) before adulthood. The most common fracture is of the fingers. Forearm, clavicle (collar bone), foot and elbow injuries are the next most common.
If you suspect a bone may be broken, keep the area still so that the bone, nerves, muscles and blood vessels will be protected. Splint the area with any rigid material. Plastic, wood or metal will do. Wrap the affected area from the fingers or toes toward the body and seek medical assistance.
Eye injuries can be very serious. Have the child close the eye and apply an eye patch. Seek medical assistance.
If a permanent tooth is accidentally knocked out, try to find the tooth quickly. Rinse the tooth in a cup or bowl of water. If possible, try to put the tooth back in the socket and have the child bite down on a gauze or moistened tea bag to hold it in place.
If you cannot replace the tooth in the socket, put it in a cup of milk or water to which you have added a half teaspoon of salt. Take the child to the dentist immediately.
Stocking the team first aid kit
Your team may want to invest in a special plastic box in which to carry safety and first aid equipment. Many first aid kits come already assembled. They should contain:
- Band-Aids and gauze pads of different sizes
- antibiotic ointment
- antiseptic solution to clean injuries
- adhesive tape
Eye patches, elastic wraps and cold packs should also be added to the first aid kit. Plastic finger splints or tongue blades may also be added since finger injures are common.
The team should bring a cooler of ice for injuries. (NOTE: Ice should be applied for only 20 minutes at a time and removed any time the area starts to burn.)
During hot weather, keep a cooler of cold water for team members to drink frequently. A cooler of cold wet towels is also a good way to cool off players and prevent overheating.
Make sure each player has a complete medical information sheet available at each game with the parents' consent for medical treatment to save time if a child is seriously injured.
If possible, designate a parent who has medial training and is certified in CPR to be present for practices and games.
If a child becomes injured, talk to him and reassure him that he will be take care of and that you will stay with him until his parent can be with him.
Remember that sports may be an important part of children's lives, but as children, most of their lives are ahead of them. Risking additional injury by playing too soon may prevent them from enjoying their sport as they continue to grow.