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No off-season for sports injuries

As a new season of school sports and youth leagues gets underway, medical professionals are gearing up for the sprained ankles, skinned knees, broken arms and other injuries that inevitably come with the games.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 80 percent of sports-related injuries in children result from playing football, basketball, baseball or soccer. Two-thirds of those injuries are soft-tissue injuries, including sprains and strains. Only 5 percent of children's sports injuries involve broken bones.

Dr. Randolph Cohen, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, said there used to be a high season for sports injuries, but no more. "It used to be the beginning of football and cheerleading season, but now it's year round,'' he said.

But using a little advance preparation, the right equipment and smart training habits can lessen injuries, medical experts say. Here are some tips for parents and coaches:


Kids are more susceptible to sports injuries for a few reasons. Young children are less coordinated and have slower reaction times. Their bones are still growing and are more fragile, said Cohen, who also

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works with the U-18 Sports Medicine program at Memorial Hospital Miramar. Plus, when big and small kids play together, there's more chance of injury. And as kids grow bigger, the potential for injury increases because there is more force.


Overuse, said Dr. Cohen. "When I was a kid, I played maybe one sport. Now it's a whole different world, and kids play year-round. They play soccer at school and at the playground. They go to soccer camp and play on a traveling team. We're playing them like little professionals,'' he said.

The remedy is simple, he said. Maintain the body better. That means rest, cross-training and varying training methods to eliminate repetitive motion. Make sure the sport matches your child's physical capabilities.


Football and cheerleading. "We see a lot of injuries in cheerleading because it has become a true sport, and they wear no protective gear,'' Dr. Cohen said. Soccer and basketball are the next injury-prone. The safest are swimming and track.


• Use proper equipment and safety gear. That means proper eyewear, helmets, shoes and padding. Make sure equipment fits well.

• Use appropriate playing surfaces. Check that fields are not full of holes or ruts that can cause trips or falls.

• Match the sport with your child's skill level and size.

• Be sure your child is warmed up and well-trained before playing a sport. Dr. Cohen said a dynamic warm-up such as running, jogging or hopping is a better pre-sport exercise. Static stretching is better afterward.

• Kids should stay hydrated, especially on hot days, and should wear sunscreen and a hat. Wear light-colored, breathable clothing.

• Don't let them play through the pain. If they are injured, stop and treat.

• Make sure the coach is trained in injury prevention and treatment. The U-18 Sports Medicine center at Memorial Hospital Memorial offers a half-day coaches clinic on the topic. Call 954-538-5500 or visit



  • If there is pain, stop the activity and isolate the injury. Evaluate the extent of the injury. If the child cannot move a limb or is in great pain, seek medical treatment.
  • Have a first aid kit handy, with ice packs and splinting material available in case a limb needs to be immobilized.
  • Remember R.I.C.E. to reduce inflammation after a sudden injury.
  • Rest: Stop using the injured limb for 48 hours.

    Ice: Ice the injury for 20 minutes several times a day.

    Compression: Wrap an injured area to reduce swelling, if needed.

    Elevation: Elevate the injured limb above the heart. 
  • Don't ignore an injury. "It can cause a lifelong disability, if a child is playing with a broken growth plate or torn ligament,'' Dr. Cohen said. "It's never OK to play through the pain.''
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