Physiotherapy for kids is a topic that every parent should be aware of. There is nothing more important than the well-being of our precious little ones. But the fact is, children are prone to getting different injuries than adults due to their musculoskeletal immaturity. Have you ever heard the expression kids are like rubber? The reason being is that their ligaments (structures supporting joints) are very lax, which makes their bones more vulnerable to injuries and breaks. The situation reverses once they have reached maturity and as an adult you are more likely to damage your ligaments before breaking bones.
When a child starts developing pain they will start compensating for it immediately. Different compensation strategies commonly seen are limping, awkward running patterns or they become apprehensive when participating in school sports. If you notice any of these behaviour's with your children then it is imperative that you seek advice from your regular doctor or physiotherapist. If biomechanical abnormalities are picked up from an early age physiotherapists are able to reduce the likelihood of Orthopaedic issues down the track.
While physiotherapy for kids is often recommended when a sports-related injury occurs, it can also be used to treat conditions that may already be present. While certainly not a comprehensive list, these are a list of the most common non-sports related injuries and conditions that bring children to our physiotherapy program.
Although sports injuries can range from scrapes and bruises to serious brain and spinal cord injuries, most fall somewhere between the two extremes. When it comes to kids, especially the very young ones, it is always better to err on the side of caution. As most very young children are unable or are afraid to articulate their pain or an incident which could have caused them unseen injuries.
Whenever a child acts out of the ordinary, maybe withdrawn or a little more lackluster than they usually do, it would be best to have a general pediatrician give them a body check up. If needed, a referral to a physiotherapist will be given for further analysis and examination.
A sprain is an injury to a ligament, one of the bands of tough, fibrous tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint and prevents excessive movement of the joint. An ankle sprain is the most common athletic injury.
A strain is an injury to either a muscle or a tendon. A muscle is a tissue composed of bundles of specialized cells that, when stimulated by nerve messages, contract and produce movement. A tendon is a tough, fibrous cord of tissue that connects muscle to bone. Muscles in any part of the body can be injured.
In some sports accidents and injuries, the growth plate may be injured. The growth plate is the area of developing tissues at the end of the long bones in growing children and adolescents. When growth is complete, sometime during adolescence, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone. The long bones in the body include:
If any of these areas become injured, it's important to seek professional help from an Orthopaedic surgeon, a doctor who specializes in bone injuries.
Painful injuries such as stress fractures (a hairline fracture of the bone that has been subjected to repeated stress) and tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) can occur from overuse of muscles and tendons. Some of these injuries don't always show up on x rays, but they do cause pain and discomfort. The injured area usually responds to rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Other treatments can include crutches, cast immobilization, and physical therapy.
Heat-related illnesses include:
Heat injuries are always dangerous and can be fatal. Heat-related injuries are a particular problem for children because children perspire less than adults and require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating. Playing rigorous sports in the heat requires close monitoring of both body and weather conditions. Fortunately, heat-related illnesses can be prevented.
Injuries can happen to any child who plays sports, but there are some things that can help prevent and treat injuries. And especially with kids, prevention is always better than a cure. No one wants their energetic child to become fearful of playing again because of a childhood injury. As parents with kids in sports, we should always be the first to practice injury prevention, no matter how much our kids may dislike our care and reminders.
Let's take the case of one of our patients, Raoul. Luckily for Raoul, his injury wasn't serious. In a few weeks, he will be fully recovered and able to play again. Even though Raoul got hurt, it's important that he continue some type of regular exercise and sports involvement after the injury heals. Exercise may reduce his chances of obesity, which is becoming more common in children. It may also reduce his risk of diabetes, a disease that can be associated with a lack of exercise and poor eating habits. Exercise also helps him build social skills and provides him with a general sense of well-being. Sports participation is an important part of learning how to build team skills.
As a parent, it is important for you to encourage your children to be physically active. It's also important to match your child to the sport, and not push him or her too hard into an activity that he or she may not like or be capable of doing. Teach your children to follow the rules and to play it safe when they get involved in sports, so they'll spend more time having fun in the game and be less likely to be sidelined with an injury. You should be mindful of the risks associated with different sports and take important measures to reduce the chance of injury. For sport-specific suggestions, see the information below.
Adapted with permission from Patient Care magazine, copyrighted by Medical Economics.
Treatment for sports-related injuries will vary by injury. But if your child suffers a soft tissue injury (such as a sprain or strain) or a bone injury, the best immediate treatment is easy to remember: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) the injury. Get professional treatment if any injury is severe. A severe injury means having an obvious fracture or dislocation of a joint, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain.
Rest: Reduce or stop using the injured area for at least 48 hours. If you have a leg injury, you may need to stay off of it completely.
Ice: Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times per day. Use a cold pack, ice bag, or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice that has been wrapped in a towel.
Compression: Ask your child's doctor about elastics wraps, air casts, special boots, or splints that can be used to compress an injured ankle, knee, or wrist to reduce swelling.
Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.
Here are some winning ways to help prevent an injury from occurring, so you are less likely to get that alarming phone call like Raoul's mom did.
Adapted from Play It Safe, a Guide to Safety for Young Athletes, with permission of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.