The benefits of participation in sports are numerous. Being part of a team cultivates long-term friendships while teaching essential collaboration and skills. Group and individual sports bring the family together as parents attend their children’s games. A sports injury, however, can quickly send your tween to the sidelines. Dr. Richard Munk, Pediatric Orthopedist (PO) and Chief of Surgery at Toledo Children’s Hospital, breaks down some common sports injuries along with suggested treatments.
Acute vs. Overuse Injuries
While an acute injury (a torn muscle, broken bone, or snapped ligament) occurs suddenly in a traumatic event, overuse injuries are caused by repetitive trauma over time. Most injuries are sport-specific. For example, in football it is common to see acute injuries such as a torn knee ligaments while in soccer broken legs/ankles are more common. Gymnasts and runners often have more overuse injuries such as chronic back pain, wrist, knee, shoulder pain, and stress fractures. “Rest, relaxation, changes of form, and coaching can alleviate overuse injuries. If a specific activity is causing a problem, the athlete will be re-directed to another activity to maintain aerobic conditioning; a runner, for instance, might take up rowing or bicycling,” Dr. Munk indicates.
Dr. Brendan McMahon, a Toledo chiropractor, treats a variety of sports injuries in student athletes. “Most chiropractic offices treat many different injuries, the most common in my practice being low back and neck. The first visit is a consultation and examination… If necessary we would make a referral to another doctor or orthopedist.”
Sprains, strains & fractures
Sprains and strains are the most common type of acute injury. Strains occur when muscles or tendons are stretched too far, and sprains are injured ligaments. “While strains generate discomfort and anxiety, they can frequently be managed by a child’s primary care physician, physical therapist, or school trainer,” Dr. Munk assures. “In the rehabilitation of sprain injuries the guideline is ‘use but not abuse.’”
Fractures can include anything from a thin hairline break in the bone to a complete break in one or more places. Dr. Munk advises fractures be treated immediately with immobilization. For a high school athlete who has had surgery to correct fractures, rehabilitation can take anywhere from three months to a year, depending on the location of the fracture and the severity.
Concussions are a very common sports related injury. Due to concern with possible serious effects such as permanent damage, the ‘walk it off’ approach of the past has been replaced by a more conservative, mandatory two week hiatus from activities involving impact. “The initial diagnosis is usually made on the sidelines; if there’s been a momentary loss of consciousness or startle-type situation where the athlete is hit on the head or back of the neck and momentarily disoriented. If an athlete is disoriented for even a moment after head trauma, then it is considered a concussion, and they are off duty at least two weeks,” Dr. Munk directs.
Narcotic-free Pain Relief
With the growing opiate epidemic, parents have cause for concern over the use of narcotics to control pain from sports injuries. Dr. Munk believes that opiates are unnecessary in the majority of instances. “It depends on the magnitude of the pain; ice packs can be every bit as effective. The primary controls are immobilization, ice for the first 24-48 hours, and guided/incremental remobilization in a controlled manner. There are a lot on non-narcotic medications that are very effective, such as Tylenol, and NSAIDs, which decrease swelling and work on the central nervous system to alleviate pain.”