(BPT) - Whether a child chooses baseball, swimming, soccer or gymnastics, playing sports is as American as apple pie. More than 60 million American kids age 6 to 18 participate in organized athletics. But along with playing sports often come injuries - and pain.
From pulled muscles to concussions, sports-related injuries are common in young athletes, sending more than 2.6 million children to the emergency room every year. Don't let your child become a statistic.
"Now that kids are back in school and fall sports are well underway, there are many things parents can do to help their children avoid getting hurt while still enjoying sports," says Anita Gupta, D.O., Pharm.D., a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Committee on Pain Medicine. "And if they do get injured, it's also important to address the pain effectively."
Common injuries in young athletes include knee pain from football or soccer, and shoulder problems from swimming and pitching in baseball and softball. Physician anesthesiologists who specialize in pain medicine note help is available if your child sustains a sports-related injury and also recommend things to do to prevent future injuries.
Treating the pain
If your child complains of pain after playing sports, don't shrug it off. If the problem seems relatively minor, such as a sore muscle, icing and resting for a day or two makes sense. If the pain doesn't get better or is more serious, see a physician who specializes in pain medicine, such as a physician anesthesiologist. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Avoid use of opioids when possible. Opioids should rarely be prescribed for young athletes and if they are, they should be taken for no more than three days. Opioids should only be used to treat severe pain under the close supervision of a physician. Instead, start with RICE therapy - rest, ice, compression and elevation - and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen. When it comes to opioids, there are real risks to use, including:
* Addiction: Opioids can cause a feeling of euphoria, making them highly addictive. Teens often become addicted to drugs by starting with prescription medications such as opioids.
* Other negative effects: Opioids can make your child feel tired, lethargic and not alert, which can be especially dangerous for teenagers who drive. It can slow down your child's breathing, too.
Combination therapy is best. The most effective way to treat pain is by combining various methods, called multi-modal therapy. Physician anesthesiologists who specialize in pain medicine often prescribe several methods to ease pain, including:
* Physical therapy to increase range of motion and strengthen muscles.
* Compression braces can support the injured joint (ankle, knee or elbow) and reduce swelling.
* Interventional procedures such as nerve blocks.
* Medications such as anti-inflammatories can reduce swelling.
* Alternative therapies such as biofeedback, medication, massage and acupuncture.
Try an ounce of prevention. Before your child puts on a uniform or takes the field, there are things you can do to head off injuries.
The best defense is a good offense. Many injuries can be avoided by ensuring your child is properly prepared to play the sport.
* Stretching is vital to ensuring muscles are warmed up.
* Using the right equipment can also reduce injuries. For example, it's important to wear the right shoes for the sport.
* Seeking expertise from an athletic trainer ensures your child is using the right technique, and doesn't overdo it.
* Encouraging your child to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and rest before exhaustion sets in - which can increase the risk of injury.
* Look down. Paying attention to the surface your child is playing on can make a big difference when it comes to injuries.
* Playing fields should be well-maintained, not full of holes or ruts.
* High impact sports should be performed on flooring made of special material that has some give or wood (example: basketball courts), not concrete.
* Mix it up. Many kids often focus on one sport beginning at a young age. That means your child may use the same motion repeatedly (example: kicking a soccer ball with the same foot), increasing the risk for overuse injuries. Even if your child prefers that sport, suggest he or she mix it up with other activities so a variety of muscles are used.
"Pain medicine specialists such as physician anesthesiologists can fully assess the cause of the pain and recommend the most effective treatment to ease pain and get young athletes back in the game," Dr. Gupta says.
For more information about pain treatment and the importance of a pain medicine specialist, visit ASA's pain management page.