Youth Sports Injuries
The American Society of Anesthesiologists hosted a Twitter chat to discuss pain management for youth sports injuries. If you missed our #SportsPainChat check out the conversation on Storify.
Read the #SportsPainChat here
More than 60 million children and teenagers in America participate in organized sports — and injury is not uncommon. Physician anesthesiologists specializing in pain medicine can help your young athlete prevent and treat sports-related injuries the safe way.
What Is a Sports Injury?
Young athletes — especially those younger than eight — are more prone to sports injury than adults due to ongoing growth spurts, slower reaction times and still-developing hand-eye coordination. Most youth sports injuries result from outdated or ill-fitting sports gear, improper technique, inadequate warmup or overuse of specific muscles.
A sports injury can lead to acute (temporary) pain, such as a bruise, sprain or strain, which in some cases can develop into severe chronic pain that lasts longer than three months. Chronic pain for young athletes can involve shoulder problems, broken bones or injuries to the knees and ankles, ligaments, brain or spinal cord.
Prevent Pain and Sports Injuries
The best way to prevent pain and injury during sports is to ensure that your athlete is playing on the appropriate surface. High-impact indoor sports (e.g., basketball, gymnastics) should be performed on specific floors designed to absorb force, and outdoor playing fields should be well-maintained.
Parents and coaches should also encourage all young athletes to:
- Stretch and ensure muscles are properly warmed up before exercise.
- Use the right equipment and gear for the sport.
- Seek expertise from an athletic trainer about the right technique.
- Stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep.
It’s also beneficial when athletes mix up their athletic activities, ensuring that a variety of muscles are used and preventing a muscle’s overuse from excessive, repetitive movements. For example, if soccer is the primary sport, then encourage young athletes to play pickup basketball or tennis on the side.
Treatment Options for Young Athletes
If your young athlete complains of pain that doesn’t get better after three months, it’s important to see a pain medicine specialist — such as a physician anesthesiologist — who is an expert at diagnosing and treating chronic pain and sports injuries.
Talk to a pain medicine specialist about treatment options, and ask about combination (multimodal) therapy — one of the most effective ways to treat pain. Combining any of the following pain management techniques can often reduce recovery time:
- RICE therapy, start with rest, ice, compression and elevation
- Physical therapy, with specific exercises to increase range of motion, strengthen muscles and ease pain
- Compression braces to support the injured joint (ankle, knee or elbow) and reduce swelling
- Interventional procedures such as nerve blocks
- Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Opioids should be rarely prescribed for young athletes, taken for no more than three days, and only for severe pain with close supervision by a doctor, as they can lead to fatigue and lethargy and can cause a feeling of euphoria that increases the risk of addiction
- Complementary therapies such as meditation, acupuncture, visualization or other alternative techniques
For more information, read our news release
Don’t Let Sports Injuries Sideline Young Athletes