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Understanding Back to School Sports Injuries

Understanding Back-to-School Sports Injuries

Has your child been injured in back-to-school sports? No teacher, parent or guardian ever likes to see a child get injured in school sports activities. But the new school year is beginning and so are the back-to-school sports activities. Be aware that sports injuries can happen very quickly, to children of any age.

The incidence of sports injuries is always relatively high, when children are first returning to school. It is an exciting and busy time, as they begin to participate in sports activities that are often new to them. At the same time, they may not have learned how to engage in different kinds of sports activities, in a way that is safe for them, as well as other students.

School nurses everywhere, will be focusing on reviewing nursing care needs of children injured, while participating in back-to-school sports. Understanding what sports injuries are and why they occur, can help parents, guardians and others, to reduce the incidence of back-to-school injuries. The school nurse invariably plays a vital role in the emergency treatment and nursing care of students who sustain sports injuries and depending upon the school scenario, he or she may be active in the sports injury prevention program, in terms of ongoing student education and training.

“Sports injuries are injuries that typically occur while participating in organized sports, competitions, training sessions, or organized fitness activities. These injuries may occur in teens for a variety or reasons, including improper training, lack of appropriate footwear or safety equipment and rapid growth during puberty.” (1)

Parents should be aware that the most common sports injuries include sprains, strains, knee injuries, swollen muscles, Achilles tendon injuries, pain along the shin bone, fractures and dislocations. (2)

One might suggest that “the best way to deal with sports injuries is to prevent them. Prevention includes knowing the rules of the game you’re playing, using the proper equipment, and playing it safe.” (3)

It is not always possible to avoid sustaining sports injuries, as children love to play with others, as well as to compete in various kinds of sports activities. Children have a lot of energy, as well as bold, courageous spirits. They should be encouraged to be active participants in school sports, as this is health and happiness related, as well as an important aspect of their education.

What should you do, if you are engaged in school sports and sustain an injury? What if this happens to your child? There is a good rule of thumb that suggests:

“If you get hurt, stop playing. Continuing to play or exercise can cause more harm.” (4)

Ongoing participation in the sports activity in which one has been injured, may put the student at risk of increasing damage to the part of the body that has already sustained an injury. It should be reported to the school nurse immediately. The nature and extent of the injury should be properly assessed, as soon as possible and appropriate first aid treatment administered, immediately. Obtaining additional advice from a physician, a more accurate diagnosis, as well as more advanced medical treatment, may be necessary.

Where the injured student is treated initially, may depend where the student was at the time of injury. This could be in a play ground, gymnasium or football field. The student may be taken into the nurse’s office or directly to a hospital emergency department.

“Treatment often begins with the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) method to relieve pain, reduce swelling and speed healing. Other possible treatments include pain relievers, keeping the injured area from moving, rehabilitation and sometimes surgery.” (5)

Back to school sports injuries are generally either acute traumatic injuries or chronic injuries. Acute traumatic injuries entail receiving “a single blow from a single application of force.” (6) This often happens with head, neck and back injuries, as well as other acute sports injuries.

Chronic injuries occur as the result of “repetitive” actions of some kind. (7) Chronic injuries appear as ongoing damage that is the direct result of doing something repeatedly, like jogging, jumping or throwing a football.

Acute traumatic injuries cause the following kind of sports injuries:

Fracture: crack, break or shattering of a bone

Contusion: bruise, swelling and bleeding in muscles

Strain: stretching or tearing of a tendon or muscle attached to a bone

Sprain: stretching or tearing of a ligament connecting bones and cartilage

Abrasion: a scrape

Laceration: a cut in the skin (may require sutures) (8)

Acute injuries may not always be evidenced immediately, as sometimes the pain does not reach any degree of intensity, until several hours later. By then, swelling will have occurred and that will have caused the pain to become more severe.

Chronic injuries include:

Stress fractures: cracks in the bone’s surface

Tendonitis: inflammation of a tendon from repetitive stretching

Epiphysitis (apophysitis): growth plate overload ( eg. Osgood-Schlatter disease) (9)

Chronic pain injuries are often evidenced by repeated complaints of ongoing or intermittent bouts of pain. At times, they can only be diagnosed with x-rays. Note that because it is not always possible for a school nurse to know exactly what kind of an injury a student has sustained, a visit to the doctor’s office or emergency room at the local hospital, may be indicated. An x-ray may be necessary to obtain the correct diagnosis.

It is important for parents to understand the seriousness of both kinds of sports injuries and to be aware that the return to sports activities, after an injury has been sustained, should be accompanied by a permission slip from the doctor or school nurse. It is also important for parents and others to understand the importance of having the recommended equipment for participation in various kinds of sports activities.

Other web sites that offer further information on sports injuries include the following:








Your children will love being actively involved in sports at school. You will get a thrill out of watching them play too, whether they win or lose. Certainly, there is always going to be some degree of risk involved with back-to-school injuries.

It is always important to encourage children to engage in healthy, school sports activities, but teaching them sport safety is an important part of your role as a parent or guardian, also. Have you been engaged in any sports lately? If not, now may be an excellent time to start. Begin by learning the rules and then become actively involved with your children’s school sports program. Help teach sports safety, for the protection of your children, as well as others.

(1) http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/sports/sports_injuries.html

(2) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sportsinjuries.html

(3) Op. Cit. kids health

(4) Op. Cit. med line

(5) Ibid.

(6) Op. Cit. kids health

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ibid.

(9) Ibid.