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Stop the Sprains

Physical activity and proper nutrition are the best ways to keep kids active and fit.  Sports are a great way to get exercise, build character and maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, the risk for a sports-related injury increases as activity level increases. Knowing how to properly react to and treat an injury when it happens will help get your child back in the game sooner.

When an Injury Happens

In our society, athletes are often applauded for “playing through the pain,” but this way of thinking can be very unsafe, especially for children and teens. Continuing to play through an injury can make the damage much worse. If left untreated, these injuries can even contribute to health problems later in life.

Ankle sprains are one of the most common types of injuries. They occur when a person lands incorrectly on an uneven surface and rolls the ankle. This happens often in basketball when a player jumps and lands on another player’s foot, and in field sports, such as football or soccer.  When an ankle is rolled, the ligaments on the side of the ankle can become strained or even tear. As a result, the area will typically become swollen and painful and may be accompanied by bruising a few days after the injury occurs.

Though ankle sprains are a common injury, young athletes are more likely than their adult counterparts to break a bone near the joint rather than sprain it. Parents often have a difficult time telling when their child has a sprain or when it is a fracture. Seek medical attention for your child as soon as possible if they show any of these signs:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling of the joint
  • The joint looks deformed
  • Inability to bear weight
  • Pain that is affecting performance

Whether it is a sprain or a fracture, your child should be evaluated by a physician if they are showing signs of an injury. The doctor will be able to correctly diagnose the injury, develop a treatment plan and determine when your child will be able to return to play.

Pediatric sports injuries require plenty of rest and the athlete should be pain free prior to returning to activity. The physician who treats your child’s injury will be able to recommend strengthening exercises for recovery and, when needed, a physical therapy regimen to regain their previous level of function. Following through with the doctor or therapist’s instructions will ensure a smooth recovery and will make a repeated injury less likely.

During extended periods of play, such as a tournament, it is not uncommon for players to experience some muscle soreness. These aches may require ice and a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen, post-game but should not interfere with game performance. If your child needs a pain reliever before the game even starts, then it is time to see a doctor.

Preventing Future Injuries

Going through the same motions season after season can place stress on frequently used areas of the body and increase the chance of injury. That is why participating in a variety of sports is important for preventing injuries. Professional athletes will often cross-train or play another sport during the off season. Encouraging your child to do the same will not only decrease the risk of injury, but can improve athletic ability overall and build maturity.

If your child is experiencing any signs of injury, it is important that they stop play right away to prevent further damage. While no athlete likes to be out of the game for any amount of time, allowing plenty of time for rest and recovery will help your child return to play at full strength.

Although the thought of your child being injured while playing sports can be frightening for a parent, the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risk.

Learn more about AllSports Medicine at All Childrens Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg.


MULARONIPatrick Mularoni, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.A.C.E.P., C.A.Q. S.M., is a Sports Medicine physician at All Childrens Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine. Dr. Mularoni completed his Pediatric Residency at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, Michigan. His Fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine was completed in Atlanta, Georgia through Emory University and his fellowship in Sports Medicine was completed through Bayfront Health.

 While at Emory University, Dr. Mularoni completed research on procedural pain reduction in the emergency setting and was awarded the American Academy of Pediatrics Willis Wingert Award for best fellow research. He has continued conducting research at All Children’s looking at best practice for procedural sedation in reduction of pediatric forearm fractures. His current research interests include pediatric overuse injury and concussion diagnosis and management in patients with mild traumatic brain injuries. He is the chairman of the Medical Emergency Committee. Dr. Mularoni lectures locally and internationally on pediatric emergency and sports-related topics and is a regular contributor to WTVT’s Good Day Tampa Bay show. Dr. Mularoni is married to Kim Mularoni, a pediatrician, and together they have three children. During free time, Dr. Mularoni competes in running, triathlon and stand-up paddle boarding races.

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