Sports Injuries: Keeping Kids Safe
Nine-year-old Haylie Gray has been doing gymnastics for since she was 6. She started competing last year. She said it's hard but fun, especially when she started racking up medals.
Haylie worked hard for those medals, too, putting in at least 2.5 hours a day, three days a week at her St. Petersburg gym. All that training took its toll, when earlier this year...
"My ankle," Haylie said. "I overdid it -- stretched it.
Haylie hid her pain during practice but complained about her ankle at home. Her parents took her to see orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Burke of Suncoast Medical Clinic.
"She was a piece of cake," Burke said. "She had an overuse injury, which was tendonitis."
Haylie's ankle didn't need surgery -- just tape and a brace. Burke said overuse injuries like Haylie's are far more common than traumatic injuries like fractures and concussions.
It's up to adults to pull the plug when driven young athletes have had too much practice. This is especially true for older kids, whose pride can keep them from admitting when they're hurt.
The National Athletic Trainers' Association says about 1 in 10 high school athletes gets injured. And Burke says many fight through the pain to save face.
"There are so many ulterior motives that come into play," Burke said, "not only from the cheerleaders on the sidelines watching me to my friends in the stands to my coach who believes in me and put this guilt trip on me that I have to carry the team."
And who could forget Kerri Strugg, the Olympic gymnast who sprained her ankle during a vault? On her next attempt, Strugg stuck the landing on one foot to help America win gold.
Burke said Strugg was the exception. "If you're an Olympic-level gymnast, I might turn the other way if you're in your final event and it's for a gold medal," Burke said. "But let's face it: Very few kids get to that level, and there's usually not a whole lot on the line."
But Burke said there can be a lot on the line if injuries go ignored. For instance, a pitcher with a damaged rotator cuff could wind up needing surgery later.
Back at the gym, Haylie was in good shape after sitting out of gymnastics for nearly a month. She's already training for her future in gymnastics.
"I have a dream of doing something big with it," Haylie said. "Being in the Olympics."
Dr. Brian Burke offered these tips to keep young athletes safe:
Make sure your child is in condition for sports.
Parent volunteers are nice, but it takes a trained professional to teach kids the proper technique for tackling on the football field.
This means a certified, unbiased referee, not a parent whose kid is on the team. Parent volunteers may let their young basketball players get away with flagrant -- and potentially dangerous -- fouls if it means a chance to score.
Playing soccer without cleats and pads is a recipe for injury. If your family or school can't afford the proper safety gear, then have you child choose a different sport.
Medical personnel on hand
Every event should be covered by licensed a medical professional. Injuries like concussions and open fractures often need to be treated immediately.
Nutrition and hydration
Check in with the athletes every hour to make sure they're staying fueled.
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