It’s that time of year! Yes, it’s back to school time, but it’s also back to practice time! Even though there are a tremendous amount of physical and social benefits to participating in sports, there is the downside injury risk.

 Look at These Statistics:

  • Thirty-eight million children and adolescents participate in organized sports each year, and even more participate in recreational activities.
  • 3.5 million children under 14 receive medial treatment for sports related injuries each year.
  • More than 2.6 million children under the age of 19 are treated in the emergency room each year for injuries from sports and recreational activities.
  • 90% of high school injuries are NEW injuries, rather than re-injuries.

What is the most common injury?

  • The most common injury in children is an ankle sprain. This occurs when the ligaments that support the ankle get overly stretched or torn.
  • Ankle sprains usually happen when there is a sudden movement or twist, and often when the foot rolls over. A sudden movement or twist can overstretch the ligaments, causing tears and bleeding (which shows as bruising and swelling) around the ankle joint.
  • These movements are more likely to happen when a person is running, jumping or quickly changing direction in sports such as basketball, netball or football.

Why do ankle Injuries occur?

  • Many kids get out of shape during the summer, and then jump right back into practice with weakened muscles.
  • Some injuries occur due to improper stretching or overuse.
  • A rapid shifting movement is another cause. When one makes a rapid shifting movement with their foot planted, such as when they play soccer or get tackled in football, the ankle rolls outward and the foot turns inward. This causes the ligaments on the outside of the ankle to stretch and tear. Less often, the ankle rolls inward and the foot turns outward. This damages the ligaments on the inside of the ankle. 

What are Signs and Symptoms of Ankle Sprains?

  • Swelling: the ankle can swell in just a few minutes or over several hours because of soft tissue damage.
  • Pain: The ankle area is usually tender to touch and hurts to move it.
  • Bruising: the ankle may look discolored. If so, bruising will show up within 2-3 days.
  • In more severe sprains, your child may hear and/or feel something tear, along with a pop or snap. Your child will probably have extreme pain at first and will not be able to walk or even put weight on their foot.
  • Usually, the more pain and swelling, the more severe the ankle sprain is and the longer it will take to heal. 

How Do We Prevent Ankle Injuries?

  • Encourage your child to warm up before they exercise.
  • Wear supportive shoes appropriate to the sport.
  • Consider ankle braces or tape if your child has ongoing or recurrent problems.
  • Begin regular conditioning prior to the formal sports season.

What if My Child Has an Injury?

In the event of an injury, follow the basic rules of RICE:

  • Rest: reduce or stop using the injured area for 4-8 hours.
  • Ice: Place a cold pack (or plastic bag filled with ice) in a towel on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, 4-8 times a day. An ice pack is best made using a plastic bag with some ice and water in it. This molds better to the ankle joint area.
  • Compression: Use a firm bandage that is not too tight and does not stop circulation or cause extra pain. The bandage should cover from just above the ankle right down to the foot. Do not cover the toes.
  • Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling.
  • The pain and swelling from an ankle sprain should improve within two to three days if the treatment guidelines are followed. If your child is unable to put weight on the injured ankle and/or you are unable to control their pain, seek medical advice. Most children recover fully from an ankle sprain.

As your child returns to practice this fall, remember, SAFETY first! Have a great game!