Is that sports form due again?
Every year, schools and athletic organizations require that you see a Raleigh, NC, pediatrician to complete a sports physical. So, what are the most common sports-related problems we see at Carolina Kids Pediatrics? For many of the conditions listed below, check out my favorite pediatric orthopedic website, www.orthoseek.com, for more information on how to recognize and recover from sports injuries.
(1) Ankle sprains: Ankle sprains are common, and often cause swelling and pain on the outer portion of the ankle. Many can be treated with a simple splint, maybe crutches for a week or so, ice for a day or two, rest, and ibuprofen. Often a strengthening program is a good idea before a gradual return to sports (for example, tracing the alphabet in the air several times with your toes, using elastic bands with resistance to strengthen ankle muscles, etc.) Growth plate fractures can look like sprains, so if there is pain over bone or your child is limping a lot, please come and see us.
(2) Patellofemoral pain: This is typically considered an overuse injury and referred to as “patellofemoral syndrome.” Pain in the front of the knee is due to pressure overload on the kneecap or patella. In young athletes, this is often due to different degrees of muscle imbalance and high activity levels. It’s important to strengthen, stretch and condition the quadriceps muscle in the thigh if this occurs, in order to stabilize the kneecap. Bicycling and other low-impact activities can help – check out the Orthoseek website above (look under “chondromalacia patellae” under the topics listed) to learn more.
(3) Osgood-Schlatter disease: Osgood-Schlatter disease is an injury at the growth place at the top of the tibia (the bump in your knee under your kneecap). The traction comes from strong and relatively tight muscles (that develop during puberty) and high activity levels. Pain and sometimes swelling can be felt directly over a bump at the bottom of the knee. Treatment includes rest, stretching, ice, ibuprofen, and possibly an over-the-counter knee strap. Although this condition can be painful, it seldom causes serious injury.
(4) Little League elbow & shoulder: This is why growing kids have “pitch count” limits in baseball! These conditions cause pain at the growth plates either on the inside of the elbow or the shoulder. It’s important not to ignore elbow (or shoulder) pain in growing baseball or softball players. If these growth plates are injured significantly, they can require surgery to repair. Early Little League elbow and shoulder injuries often go away with rest, stretching and attention to proper throwing form.
(5) ACL tears: Unfortunately, this injury occurs far too often in young athletes. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a stabilizing ligament of the knee that is torn during an uncontrolled twisting motion. It almost always requires surgery in young people. While there is a high rate of return to sports after this injury, it is safest to wait at least 7-9 months before considering a return to play.
(6) Hand or wrist (fractures/sprains/tendonitis): Fractures of the wrist usually occur with a fall on the outstretched hand. If swelling at the wrist and pain with movement occur, there is likely a sprain or fracture. An x-ray is typically needed to tell whether the wrist is broken. Many milder wrist fractures can be treated with a cast or splint for several weeks.
(7) Concussion: Concussion usually occurs from a direct blow or rapid turning of the head. Common symptoms and signs include headache, dizziness, nausea, or slowed thinking. The main treatment for a concussion is rest, which means no sports, plenty of sleep and brain rest, including minimal use of electronics and school work. Young athletes may be more susceptible to concussions and may require a longer period of rest for their brains to return to normal function. According to the Gfeller-Waller concussion law, you will need to see a medical provider, such as a Raleigh, NC, children’s doctor at Carolina Kids Pediatrics, or (in more severe cases) a neurologist or sports medicine physician, to complete a return-to-learn and return-to-play plan. Gradual increase in mental and physical activity as symptoms subside is recommended.
(8) Dehydration: Most athletes who become dehydrated are simply not drinking enough. A cup for every 15-20 minutes of activity is a good rule of thumb. Other factors that can lead to dehydration include exercising in the heat, drinking too much caffeine or having a viral illness. Extreme thirst, headache, nausea, abdominal pain and muscle cramping are common signs of dehydration. If an athlete suffers from dehydration, they should stop exercising and drink plenty of fluids. Young athletes may be more prone to dehydration because their thirst drive is not as well developed.
(9) Shin splints: Pain in the front of the shins with running can indicate an overuse injury, excess pressure in the tissues in the front of the leg, or sometimes a stress fracture of the tibia (shin). Rest, ice, compression sleeves, and elevation are often enough to treat shin splints, but if pain persists, if pain is severe, or if it is localized to one area, ruling out a stress fracture is a good idea.
(10) Heart problems: Although rare in children and teenagers, some of the most serious sports-related health problems are heart-related. If your child every faints during exercise, or experiences significant chest pain, dizziness, or palpitations (sensations of an abnormally rapid heartbeat) with exercise, it’s important to come in to Carolina Kids Pediatrics to evaluate this further with an exam, and sometimes with an EKG or further cardiology evaluation. These can be warning signs of an underlying cardiac problem.
Remember that the pediatricians at Carolina Kids Pediatrics in Raleigh, North Carolina are here seven days a week to help address any sports-related injuries or problems your child experiences.