Treating Your Child’s Sports Injury
We want our children to have a safe, happy athletic experience—but not every sports-related injury can be prevented. Our tips explain how to care for minor injuries, and how to recognize when you need professional medical care.
Youth sports have never been as popular as they are now in our country, and this is a healthy trend. Children need physical activity to support normal growth. However, even when children participate in well-organized programs on teams that are well matched to their skill level, they sometimes hurt themselves. A few injuries require immediate medical attention from a sports medicine doctor, but many can be treated at home.
Treatment for a sports-related injury will vary with the nature of the trauma. As a parent, your first step is to assess the seriousness of the injury. If you see any of the following symptoms, take your child to a sports medicine physician without delay:
- The injury has caused loss of movement or strength in the injured limb.
- There is an obvious bone fracture.
- Your child has a dislocated joint.
- You see other obvious signs of deformity in the injured area.
Once the possibility of serious injury has been ruled out, soft tissue injuries like bruises, sprains, and strains can usually be treated safely and effectively at home. Follow the “RICE” treatment plan for care: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
- Rest. Encourage your child to stop using the injured limb for at least 48 hours. If your child’s leg is injured, you may want him to stay off his feet completely for two days. You could also consider crutches to keep weight off the injured leg.
- Ice. Cold treatments at the injured area will ease pain and swelling. Apply a crushed ice pack or a bag of frozen peas for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You can repeat icing four to eight times a day. Typically, ice is used for the first 48 to 72 hours following an injury. Be sure to protect the skin at the injury site by wrapping the ice or peas in a towel before you apply cold to the injury. Never let your child sleep with ice on an injury.
- Compression. If the injured joint is an ankle, knee, or wrist, you might want to consider an elastic wrap or compression sock to reduce swelling. Begin applying wrap below the injured area and wrap upward, leaving fingers or toes exposed. Monitor the exposed digits; if your child feels numbness or temperature change—or if you see discoloration—loosen the wrap. Remove the wrap before your child goes to sleep. If you are unsure about wrapping an injury, don’t hesitate to consult with your doctor.
- Elevation. An injured area tends to swell. To reduce swelling, raise the hurt limb above the level of the patient’s heart. Prop an injured leg or arm up on pillows for support, and to keep your child comfortable.
After two days, most injuries will start to improve. If you don’t see signs of improvement, or if your child complains about prolonged or severe pain, consult your doctor. Most minor injuries will respond beautifully to the R.I.C.E. treatment plan delivered with tender loving care, but if your child isn’t getting better, we are always here to help.
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive sports medicine expertise
From Olympians to pro athletes to kids in youth sports and those that just want to be more active—Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, Plymouth, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.
More resources for you
- Meet Sports Medicine Surgeon Dr. Scott Pepin
- The Most Common Kids’ Sports Injuries
- What Are The Injury Risks For Your Young Hockey Player?
- Is A Single Year-Round Sport Good For Your Child?
- A Step-By-Step Plan To Injury Recovery
- Ask Dr. Skendzel: If my child is experiencing groin pain, when is it time to consult a sports medicine physician?
Sports medicine specialist Dr. Jeffrey Furmanek explains the advantages of treatment provided by physicians with specialized training in sports medicine—and how their expertise can benefit you whether or not you are an athlete.
It’s no fun to suffer an injury, but understanding what to expect during the recovery process can help. We walk you through the steps from injury to full recovery.
Ask Dr. Skendzel: Given emerging research about concussions, is it safe for my child to play high school football?
Emerging research suggests that concussions sustained by high school football players can result in serious injury. Sports medicine physician Dr. Jack Skendzel helps parents evaluate the risks.