Pediatric HealthSource: Sports Injuries

Eric Leighton and Jeff Sydes

Q: My son plays multiple sports and has little downtime for his body to recover. With the competition getting harder, more players are getting hurt. What can we do to help prevent injury during fall sports season?

A: Youth sports are becoming more competitive than ever. Because they train hard on and off the field, athletes have little downtime, and opportunity for injury becomes greater.

Sports injuries are the second-leading cause of emergency room visits for children and adolescents. However, 50 percent of injuries can be avoided if athletes are properly conditioned.

Pediatricians recommend following these principles:

1. Warm up and cool down. Participating in at least 10 minutes of light aerobic activity and stretching before and after strenuous activity allows for blood flow to the muscles, making it easier to prevent injury.

2. Safety first.When working out, learn to perform the exercises with good form and technique before adding additional weight or difficulty. This will ensure a steady and safe progression, helping to avoid preventable injuries.

3. Work + rest = success.Avoid injury by completing aprogressive program that addresses all major muscle groups through a complete range of motion. Include rest periods. Athletes need at least one to two days off a week for recovery. Because their bodies are still growing, probably the most important component of recovery is ensuring they get eight to 10 hours of quality, restful sleep.

When a child is injured, he or she should be evaluated to start the proper course of treatment to get back in the game.

Always consult your child's pediatrician concerning your child's health or before starting any exercise program.

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Eric Leighton is the functional rehabilitation lead with the Sports Medicine team at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Jeff Sydes is the sports performance lead with the Sports Medicine team at Nationwide Children's Hospital.


If your child gets a sports injury, remember to use the acronym R.I.C.E. to properly treat it:

  • Rest – Your pediatrician should evaluate any injury and will often advise rest. Do not use the affected body part until seeing the doctor, and use crutches if walking with a limp.
  • Ice and compression – Apply ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time to reduce pain and swelling. Always ice an injury for the first 48 to 72 hours, and never sleep with ice applied. Reduce swelling by wrapping the area with an elastic wrap or compression sock. Always watch for numbness, discoloration or temperature changes resulting from a wrap that’s too tight.
  • Elevation – Prop the injured area higher than the heart to allow gravity to control the swelling.

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