Serious sports-related injuries increase for kids

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Bumps and bruises are part of life for kids who grow up playing sports. But according to a new study from Safe Kids Worldwide, more serious injuries are becoming more common.

The study says that last year 1.35 million kids ended up in the emergency room with sports-related injuries.

For many parents and coaches, they say the number one thing they can do to help cut down on serious injuries to young athletes is to educate them. The players have to know when it's time to say something before a small pain becomes something more severe.

With the school year about to start back up in northeast Florida, many high schools are already back on the field for the start of fall football practice.

"If they tell you that they are hurt, they will have an opportunity to play again," parent Andre Bell said. "You don't want an injury to go untreated and possibly end a child's career or prevent them from playing in high school or at the prep level.

"When they get hurt, they don't want to tell anyone because they don't want to be taken out of the game," said Dr. Wesley Mills, of St. Vincent's Primary Care.

According to the study, sprains, broken bones and concussions topped the list of sports-related ER visits for kids ages 6 to 19. The total cost of those injuries was more than $935 million last year alone. Doctors say that some of the injuries could be cut down with good coaching and good technique.

"I would say that some injuries are unavoidable when you get young kids, possibly uncoordinated, learning a new sport," Bell said. "Good coaching, good fundamentals and total parental guidance could reduce some of that cost."

"Some of it is about equipment, but it's also about education," Mills said. "Hitting correctly, watching how you are tackling in football, being careful how you are heading the ball in soccer."

The study shows 12 percent of all sports-related injuries for youths are concussions. Nearly half of them were for athletes ages 12 to 15.

Mills said that coaches need to always be looking for the warning signs of a concussion.

"We use to think that you got a little ding or got your bell rung," he said. "We now realize that those are major concussions. There's not always a loss of consciousness."

Doctors and coaches also say that making sure that kids have the proper equipment, no matter what level of sports they are playing, is a major factor in cutting down injury risk.

"Any safety equipment that is available, buy it and use it," Bell said. "It is going to save your kids injury in the long run. You want them to enjoy sports."

One resource that parents do have for treatment of sports injuries is from Heekin Orthopedics. Every Saturday during fall high school sports, it offers a free bumps-and-bruises clinic to treat minor sports injuries. The goal is to help diagnose those smaller injuries before they become serious.