Sports are a fun way to stay active. As parents, we do everything in our power to make youth sports a safe place. Unfortunately, the risk of injury can’t be eradicated completely, so even the smallest amount of first aid knowledge can go a long way.
According to 2019 statistics, 2.7 million emergency room visits are directly attributed to youth sports participation every year. While most of these emergency room visits are for minor injuries like sprains and strains, it can still be stressful and expensive. So, what should you do if your family is affected by a youth sports injury?
There are many different places you can go for injuries. Many parents may try to start with their primary physician, but if an injury occurs on a weekend and needs immediate attention, you may need to look into these other options. Always take note of the closest medical facilities in case of emergency, especially if you are traveling outside of your local area.
The emergency room is ideal for fractures, severe bleeding or contusions, concussions that result in “red flags,” and life or limb-threatening situations. However, we all know that an ER visit can cost a family a large amount of money, so many parents try to avoid this option at all costs. Let’s look at some other options you may have for less severe injuries.
Urgent Care Walk-In Clinic
For less life-threating injuries, urgent care clinics can be a good option. Many locations now have orthopedic walk-in clinics boasting in-house x-ray machines and highly trained medical professionals. These professionals can include doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and even athletic trainers in some areas. Urgent care clinics may have different copays and coverage compared to an emergency room visit, so be sure to check your insurance coverage before a visit.
Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Clinics
Your primary care physician is an excellent resource if you or your child sustains an injury. However, they may recommend or refer you to a sports medicine specialist. These specialists are often orthopedic doctors. They tend to be more expensive than primary care physicians, but for good reason. These doctors specialize in bones, muscles, and sometimes sport-specific injuries.
An added benefit of an orthopedic clinic is its connections with local physical therapy clinics and athletic trainers – especially if you have one at your child’s school. These connections and professional relationships further enhance the overall care and recovery plan for your child. Recovery is an important part of post-injury care to ensure your child gets as much functionality and range of motion back as possible.
You may be lucky enough to be part of a program or school that has an athletic trainer. This person can be an essential resource for on-site injury management. An athletic trainer is highly skilled and trained in injury assessments and can help create an immediate plan for you. Though some programs are progressing to athletic trainers as standard practice, many schools and youth sports programs still do not have access or funding for athletic training staff. It’s always good to stay up to date on the latest injury care and prevention so you know what to do in case of an emergency.
If you don’t have a first aid kit in your car, you should consider purchasing one. Many stores such as grocery stores, sporting goods stores, and pharmacies offer prepackaged first aid kits. If you want to create your own first aid kit, you should include:
Note that alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are not on the list. Updated research suggests that you should not pour alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on open wounds. Doctors say using hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol can harm the tissue and delay healing. They suggest the best way to clean a minor wound is with cool running water and mild soap. Rinse the wound for at least five minutes to remove dirt, debris, and bacteria. Larger wounds with excessive bleeding should always be treated by a professional.
Many people think breaks and fractures are different types of injuries, but they are in fact the same thing. Sprains are different than a break, in that it involves the ligaments instead of the bone. Ligaments are pieces of tissue that connect one bone to another bone. For example, the knee joint has four major ligaments that you may have heard before- ACL, PCL, LCL, and MCL. These ligaments help connect your knee joint and stabilize your knee during agility movements. Strains tend to be painful around the muscle instead of the bone. All three of these injuries can range from minor to severe, but knowing the difference can help understand next steps and the plan of care.
Though these three tips are great places to start when it comes to your child’s initial injury assessment and care, it’s always good to take note of where the local emergency departments and urgent cares are in case of an emergency. If you have any questions regarding injuries or your child’s prevention or recovery plan, you should contact your family physician.
This article is not intended to provide direct advice regarding your child’s medical needs or care. Always consult a physician or a licensed health care provider to determine a proper plan.
My name is Grady, and I'm an athletic trainer at Eaglebrook School in Massachusetts. In my work, I serve athletes grades six through nine, helping them build a strong health and performance foundation for quality movement - whether it's on the field or in life - for decades to come.
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