For a parent, there can be a lot of anxiety when your child gets hurt and you don’t know what to do. As a sports medicine physician and parent who has covered many sporting events from the sidelines, and has been the medical director and team physician of high school and college athletic teams, here’s some advice on how to approach the situation.
Being prepared is the first step. Prior to the season, talk with the coach or athletic director of your child’s school or sports team about protocol if an athlete is injured in practice or during a game. Do they have an athletic trainer or physician to evaluate injuries? Is there an action plan for emergencies? For both home and away games, coaches, athletic trainers and other medical staff should know how to request an ambulance as well as the location of the nearest emergency room.
If your child is injured, he or she should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible if there is significant swelling, bruising, visible deformity, inability to use the joint normally or uncertainty about what to do. Additionally, head, neck and back injuries should be evaluated as soon as possible.
For injuries to the arm and leg, icing for 15 minutes at a time, elevating the body part and using an appropriate brace or splint can help to decrease pain and to support the injury. If pain and other symptoms persist for more than 48 hours, your child should be evaluated.
Keep in mind that the types of injuries kids get are often different than adults, and seemingly simple sprains may actually be fractures. It is also important that children are evaluated by a physician who has expertise treating kids.
Dr. Warren Young is a primary care sports medicine physician at HSS Westchester.