Texas Children’s West Campus Physicians Answer Your Most Common Sports Medicine Questions
Participation among younger athletes in year round sports is now more common than ever. It’s important that parents, coaches and athletes be mindful of the preventative measures that should be taken to mitigate injuries. Experts from Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus’ Sports Medicine Program answer some of the most common questions and provide recommendations to ensure young athletes have safe and injury-free seasons.
Now open at I-10 and Barker Cypress, Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus houses 19 subspecialty outpatient clinics, inpatient hospital services and the only 24/7 dedicated pediatric emergency center in the West Houston area.
Experts: Brian Scully, Dr. Jorge Gomez, Dr. Megan May, Dr. J. Herman Kan, Dr. Scott McKay and Lisa Hughes.
Q: How young is too young for my child to get involved in athletic activities?
This really depends on a number of factors including the sport, the child and the family. For instance, young children can safely begin participating in structured low or non-contact sports such as soccer, tennis and basketball at an earlier age. It’s recommended that children who want to engage in high contact sports such as football and hockey wait until they are a bit older and always use the recommended protective equipment.
Q: How long should my child stretch or warm up before he/she participates in sports?
Warming up and stretching is essential for all children and young adults and should last for a minimum of 10 minutes before beginning physical activities. Warming up helps to elevate your child’s heart rate at a more gradual pace and prepares the body for activity. After the warm-up stretching is appropriate. All major muscle groups, especially those most used in the activity they will be participating in, should be stretched. It’s important to hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Stretching helps your child’s muscles get prepared for use and helps protect your child or young adult from potential damage as “cold” muscles can rip or tear more easily.
Q: Is it necessary to stretch AFTER participating in sports? Why is this important?
While many parents and young athletes have gotten into the habit of warming up and stretching prior to workouts, many may not realize the importance of stretching after an activity. Like warming up, stretching after activities or sports helps to cool the muscles down and gradually slows your child’s heart rate. Also, stretching after exercise may increase flexibility as the muscles are warm.
Q: How can I help protect my child against sports injuries?
You can help protect them by keeping them active and in shape. Insist that they follow safety rules for their sports and use the recommended protective equipment; this includes the proper padding for high contact sports, mouth and shin guards, cups, gloves, and most importantly, helmets and masks to protect against potential serious injuries to the head which could have long-lasting effects. Playing a variety of sports and taking time off between seasons is also important in preventing injuries.
Q: Tell me about the sports medicine program at Texas Children’s Hospital?
Texas Children’s Hospital has set out to provide a sports medicine program comprised of highly trained specialists in primary care sports medicine, orthopedic sports medicine, musculoskeletal radiology and sports physical therapy in order to provide the best available care for child and adult athletes in the Houston area. All of our specialists are both clinicians and academicians, meaning that patients and parents can be assured that we will remain on the cutting edge of sports medicine science.
Q: What are the most common sports-related injuries you see in your clinic?
Common injuries that we see are sprains of the ankles, knees, shoulders, wrists; fractures of the collarbone, elbows, wrist and fingers; and overuse injuries, especially of the knees and shoulders.
Q: What sport leads to the most patient visits for your clinic?
This time of year, it’s football. However, we see injured athletes from many sports including basketball, soccer, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse and tennis.
Q: What types of health screenings should my child have before participating in sports?
Before beginning any type of physical activity, especially structured sports, all children and young adults should get yearly sports physical from their dedicated pediatrician or medical home. Your medical home should already have a history of your child’s previous sports injuries, their vaccine record and a history of their growth/development. In addition, your pediatric provider will also ask you to complete a medical history form specifically for athletes. This is essential for identifying problems that could be made worse by athletic participation.
These visits are crucial as they allow for the identification of silent problems and help young patients with chronic issues – such as asthma – to create a plan of action with their pediatrician. Knowing your child’s history, pediatricians can help reduce the risk of re-injury for athletes who suffer from similar repeated injuries. Your pediatrician can also help identify the proper screening and testing your child needs based on family history and previous visits.
Most sports physicals will include a normal exam that checks for vision and hearing, examination of the heart and a musculoskeletal examination.
Q: My child has asthma, is there anything different they need to do in order to prepare for sports?
It is very important for all children with asthma to see their pediatrician regularly and have their symptoms under control, but it’s especially important for the young athlete. If a child is having coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath with exercise, they likely are having symptoms at other times too and these need to be controlled with appropriate controller medications. The young athlete should have their rescue inhaler with them at all times, and many youngsters need to take two to four puffs of their rescue inhaler before athletics. However, if they also need their rescue inhaler during athletics; it’s a sign that their asthma is not well controlled. In addition, it is also important for young athletes with asthma to stay in shape always; they don’t need another reason to get short of breath while playing their sport.
Q: What causes sudden death in young athletes?
It’s important to begin by saying that sudden death is extremely rare. The causes of sudden death vary, but a vast majority are linked to heart abnormalities. According to the American Heart Association, the best available screening for cardiac problems in young athletes is a careful history and physical. Providing accurate, honest answers to questions about a family history of heart problems or chest pain with exercise can save a child’s life. Getting the proper physicals and screenings before beginning athletic activities can help to identify potential cardiac issues in your child.
It is also important to practice proper heat safety. Children should always be drinking more when they are, or are planning to be, outdoors. Children and young adults should take frequent water breaks and never get to the point where they are thirsty because by that time it’s too late. Drinks containing carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, can be given to children and young adults involved in strenuous sports or activities; however, water is the preferred drink of choice for all exposed to the heat.
Q: How young is too young for my child to start weight training?
The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine has recommended that strength training not begin before age 6. In the elementary-school age child, strength training should consist primarily of body weight exercises, like push-ups and sit-ups. We strongly recommend that children and teens at least be able to perform the number of push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups/hangs recommended for their age by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness before lifting weights. When children and young adults do engage in weight lifting or weight training it’s important to have an adult present at all times to ensure proper technique and ensure a safe training environment.
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