Tag Archives: kids sports safety

Summer Safety: Helping Kids Avoid Broken Bones and Hurt Heads

brokenSchool is out, the weather is warm, and outdoor activities are in full swing. Summertime is a fun time for most children, but it’s also a season when New York-area hospitals see a spike in the number of kids who suffer fractures or concussions.

A fracture, which is a partial or complete break in a bone, can occur anywhere on the body. The most common sites are the wrist, elbow, and collarbone, as well as the ankle and femur (thighbone). A concussion is a type of brain injury that occurs from a blow to the head or body.

Any activity children participate in can lead to injuries: playing outside, swinging, climbing the monkey bars, jumping on trampolines, playing in bouncy castles. Falls and fractures are common in activities involving speed, like skateboarding, bicycling, or riding a scooter. Fireworks and climbing trees are a common cause of many summer injuries, too. At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, we see many of these injuries every summer, in addition to injuries that might not be as obvious to parents. Oftentimes, youth who engage in activities such as contact sports or bicycling, or those who simply have a collision or fall when playing, might sustain a concussion, and may need to be seen by a specialist at our Concussion Center.

Of course, it’s impractical for children to avoid all of these activities. Kids will be kids, and outdoor recreation is beneficial to children’s physical, mental, and emotional health. That’s why it is important to take reasonable precautions to increase their safety as they enjoy their summer:

Wear proper protective equipment.
Helmets should always be worn for activities like bike riding and skateboarding, as well as for contact sports like football. When skateboarding, kids should be wearing elbow and kneepads, too.

Pay attention to playground surfaces. Rather than concrete, asphalt, or hard packed dirt, they should be made out of softer surfaces like shredded rubber or wood chips. These can better absorb the impact of a fall and are less likely to cause injuries.

Build strength and endurance. Being in proper physical condition is important for preventing injuries when participating in sports. Receiving appropriate instruction from athletic trainers is always recommended.

Always supervise kids around fireworks to prevent explosion injuries, which are common in the hands.

You can take steps to lessen the chances of broken bones and concussions, but you can’t avoid the risk altogether. Serious injuries may still occur as kids participate in typical summer activities. If your child has suffered a head injury or if an injury has caused pain out of proportion to a regular knock or “boo boo”:

• Immobilize the child.
• Do not move an affected limb or joint.
• Put ice on swollen areas.
• Call your doctor’s office for advice or go to the emergency room for evaluation by a physician.

Sometimes, children require specialist evaluation and treatment because their bones are still growing. For example, if the wrist looks obviously deformed, you can assume that would require a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. If you’re in doubt about the seriousness of an injury, there is no harm in coming to the ER to make sure everything is okay. Emergency room doctors are very good at distinguishing what needs to be seen by a specialist and what doesn’t.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and safe summer!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Pablo Castañeda, MD, is the Division Chief of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone.


The 4-1-1 on Concussions During School Sports


Participating in sports can be an important part of kids’ social and physical development, but school athletics are not without risk of injury.

That’s why New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) both encourages students’ participation and promotes safety in athletics. One of PSAL’s primary health concerns is concussion, a common injury in contact sports, such as football, lacrosse, wrestling, basketball, and soccer.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a traumatic, usually short-lived brain injury that can result from either a direct blow to the head or a hit to another part of the body that causes whiplash-like motion in the neck and head. Imagine the brain as Jello being forcibly shaken back and forth within the confined space of the skull.

Concussion symptoms

Contrary to popular belief, less than 10 percent of concussions involve any loss of consciousness. Classic symptoms include:

• Headache or pressure in the head;
• Confusion or fogginess;
• Nausea;
• Sensitivity to light or noise;
• A delay in response when questioned;
• Glassy-eyed stare or dazed appearance.

How do NYC school sports programs handle concussions?

Guided by the New York State Concussion Management and Awareness Act, PSAL’s concussion policy calls for student-athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion to be removed from the field immediately—there’s no reason to wait for a definitive diagnosis. Students may not return to athletic activity for a minimum of 24 hours and until they have been evaluated by and received written clearance from a licensed physician.

It is important for parents to seek appropriate medical care from a doctor experienced in treating concussions.

How long do symptoms last?

Recovery times differ. It typically takes 10 to 14 days for all symptoms to clear. However, some kids may take longer, especially younger athletes; girls; students who have had one or more previous concussion; those with a learning disability, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or mood disorder like depression or anxiety; and those with a history of headaches. The severity of injury or time since it occurred doesn’t predict the duration; some of the mildest concussions cause symptoms lasting for weeks to months and vice versa.

Concussion treatment and recovery

As difficult as it may be for active young people, the main treatment is cognitive and physical rest.

Cognitive rest includes limiting TV, computer, and texting time, as well as class time, studying, papers, and exams until symptoms begin to resolve. Some children need to avoid school for several days to a week or two, or attend half days until symptoms start to subside. As kids feel better, they should progress gradually to normal levels of activity.

Physical rest means no strenuous physical activity until symptoms have completely resolved. However, there is usually no reason for complete bed rest. Light aerobic activity, such as walking or stationary bicycling, may speed healing and help keep kids’ spirits up.

Rest times may vary, and a concussion specialist can help determine the best treatment course.

When is it safe to return to sports?

Even if a physician has cleared a student to return to athletic activity, parents and coaches should have the final say, as they know the kids better than anyone. Once symptoms have disappeared completely and athletes have been cleared, school sports programs follow a step-wise “return to play” protocol where kids gradually increase physical exertion over five to seven days, watching for any recurrence of symptoms. Depending on the number of previous concussions a student has sustained, the return to play may be slower or curtailed for the season.

For more information

To learn more about concussion in sports, start with this informative PSAL PowerPoint presentation about everything from identifying, diagnosing, and managing a concussion to PSAL guidelines.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Dennis A. Cardone, DO, is Director of Primary Care Sports Medicine in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Co-Director of the Concussion Center at NYU Langone Medical Center, and Chief Medical Officer for the New York City Public Schools Athletic League.