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 a parent) who has covered many sporting events from the sideline, and has been the medical director and team physician of high school and college athletic teams, here is some advice as to 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 what their protocol is if an athlete gets 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 if one is emergently needed and know the directions to 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, if you are unable to see a physician, 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 injured body part. If pain and other symptoms persist for more than 48 hours, your child should be evaluated.
Keep in mind that the types of injuries that kids can get are different than adults, and seemingly simple sprains may actually be fractures. It is also important that children be evaluated by a physician who has expertise in taking care of kids.
A version of this article appeared in the Daily Voice.
Dr. Warren Young is a primary sports medicine physician at HSS Westchester who specializes in the care of young athletes.