Safety First!

In Dr. Shane Burton by Lola Magazine

Participation in sports provides numerous benefits for our children both physically and socially, but with those benefits comes a downside – the risk of a sports-related injury. That shouldn’t keep your child on the bench, though. School-age youth need regular physical activity to enhance and maintain musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health.

There are two types of sports-related injuries: acute injuries and overuse injuries. Acute injuries are usually the result of a single traumatic event, with common injuries including wrist fractures, ankle sprains, hamstring strain and shoulder dislocations. Overuse injuries tend to be more common in sports, but they usually occur over time and are subtle, making them more difficult to diagnose and treat. Overuse injuries are the result of repetitive micro-trauma to the tendons, bones, and joints, with examples including tennis elbow, youth pitching elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, jumper’s knee, runner’s knee, Achilles tendinitis, and shin splints.

Youth sports injuries are nearly impossible to avoid. They can occur for several reasons including: improper training or technique, equipment failure, and anatomic or biomechanical issues of the athlete. Here are a few suggestions to keep your child in the game for life by helping prevent injuries and avoid or reduce long-term complications:

Preventing Injuries and Complications

Be in proper physical condition to play the sport. While children and adolescents are often encouraged to participate in aerobic activities, they can also benefit from strength training activities that help enhance muscle and bone health.

See a physician for a preseason physical examination.

Obtain instruction on training and technique, and make sure to follow the rules of the sport. Coaches and trainers are there to teach proper technique, which can help avoid injuries. It is very important for young athletes to listen to their instructions because most overuse injuries occur due to improper technique. Learning how to properly use athletic equipment is also important.

Wear appropriate protective gear and proper-fitting equipment. Make sure your child’s equipment fits properly and is in good condition – a weekly check can help minimize potential for injury. Just a few examples of protective gear include shin guards for soccer, a hard-shell helmet when facing a baseball or softball pitcher, and a helmet and body padding for ice hockey.

Always warm up before playing. Warm-up time should involve low-impact exercise, such as running in place, that gradually brings the heart rate up. Athletes should also stretch their muscles prior to activity, which will help prevent injury. Stretching should go just beyond the point of resistance and should not include bouncing. Hold stretches for 10-12 seconds.

Be sure your child cools down properly after activity. Cooling down after play allows the heart rate to gradually return to a resting level. Once again, stretching may be helpful to avoid injury.

Do not play when in pain or very tired.

Maintain proper hydration with adequate water or other liquids available during activity. Hydration allows muscles to work properly and helps prevent cramps and spasms.

Be sure your child cools down properly after activity. Cooling down after play allows the heart rate to gradually return to a resting level. Once again, stretching may be helpful to avoid injury.

While most children will let you know when they are hurt, if you think your kid is prone to “tough it out,” here are a few signs of injury which parents and guardians should be aware:

Look Out For

Avoiding putting weight on a certain body part or favoring one side of the body over the other (limping)

Appearing to be in pain when using a particular body part

Inability to sleep

Shortness of breath or trouble breathing during activity

Headaches during or after activity

Appearing to experience stiffness in the joints or muscles

Lightheadedness or dizziness

Trouble sitting and/or climbing stairs

Inability to feel the fingers or toes

Experiencing unusual weakness

Irritated skin and/or blisters

If your child experiences any sharp or stabbing pain while participating in a sport, they should stop the activity immediately. Playing through pain may worsen the injury and will likely cut your child’s season short. If you have any concerns that your child might be injured, speak with a physician or certified athletic trainer immediately. The sooner an injury is diagnosed, the more effectively it can be treated, and the sooner your athlete can return to the game.


Dr. Shane Barton was named Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery at LSU Health Shreveport in March. He has been a member of the LSU Health faculty since 2005, teaching more than 1,000 medical students and directly supervising more than 100 residents in Orthopaedic Surgery, Family Medicine and Rheumatology. Dr. Barton specializes in the treatment of pediatric and adult sports-related injuries, as well as complex shoulder, elbow and knee joint reconstruction procedures. He utilizes state-of-the-art open arthroscopic and open techniques to restore damaged joints, ligaments and bones for patients who suffer traumatic, sports-related or degenerative injuries so they can remain as active and pain-free as possible. Dr. Barton has served as a team physician for several professional athletic teams, including the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox, as well as college and high school teams. His new Center for Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine will open soon in Shreveport.