Calling Time Out on Your Child's Sports Injuries

Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital Sports Medicine Expert Offers Five Tips for Parents on Preventing Their Children's Sports Injuries

Apr 28, 2011


With spring here and summer on the way, children are back on the field and ready to score one for the team. Unfortunately, this also means more opportunities for injury, from simple twisted ankles to serious concussions.

Approximately 2 million high school athletes are injured every year, with 500,000 needing doctor's visits and 30,000 needing hospitalization. Sports are a major cause of traumatic brain injury, with 21 percent of these injuries happening as a result of sports or other recreational activities.

There are several easy steps parents can take to prevent sports-related injuries, says Dr. William N. Levine, an orthopedic surgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, head team physician for Columbia University, and vice chairman of orthopedic surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. Levine was recently nominated for a three-year term as chair of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention (STOP) campaign sports injuries steering committee. Dr. Levine says, "The goals of this campaign are to bring awareness of overuse injuries in youth athletes to coaches, parents, and to the kids themselves. I am looking forward to chairing this national campaign.

"While some sports, like football and baseball, see more injuries than, for example, basketball and softball, there is always risk for injury," says Dr. Levine. "The best way to prevent an injury is to listen to your child and get involved in their sports activities. And, when they get injured, make sure they get the medical attention they need."

The following are Dr. Levine's five tips for parents on how they can prevent, identify and help their children recover from sports injuries:

  1. Easing In. When children start their sports after a break they should increase their exertion gradually. Encourage them to take it easy at first. And remind them that every time they exercise, they should take time to warm up and stretch.
  2. Proper Equipment. Having the necessary and proper-fitting equipment is crucial, especially for high-impact sports like football and baseball. Make sure your children wear their protective gear not just on game day. An estimated 62 percent of sports injuries happen during practice.
  3. Training and Technique. Whether they're a pitcher or shortstop or left fielder, using proper technique, and having the necessary fitness level, are essential to preventing injury. This means having the right coach and getting the necessary practice.
  4. Warning Signs. Not all injuries are obvious. Some come on slowly after weeks or months of repetitive stress. Signs of injury include limping, poor sleep, shortness of breath, headaches and joint/muscle stiffness. Another warning sign is when children suddenly start complaining about their sports. Make sure to ask them what the problem is, says Dr. Levine, and make an appointment with a sports medicine specialist if their symptoms persist.
  5. Getting Better. When children are recovering from an injury, make sure they take the time to heal — no matter how eager they are to get back in the game. Remind them that a full recovery is better for their team and their own future prospects. In addition, there are long-term health consequences of untreated injury, including arthritis.

For more information, the STOP website — — offers specific advice for 21 sports and recreational activities, from baseball to wrestling. In addition, patients may call 866-NYP-NEWS.

Dr. William N. Levine

Dr. William N. Levine specializes in shoulder and elbow surgery, sports medicine, and arthroscopy of all joints, and arthroscopic and reconstructive knee surgery. He is a former tennis professional and high school state champion. He received his M.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and received fellowship training at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and the University of Maryland. He completed his residency training at New England Medical Center/Tufts University Medical School and an internship at Beth Israel Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, located in New York City, offers the best available care in every area of pediatrics — including the most complex neonatal and critical care, and all areas of pediatric subspecialties — in a family-friendly and technologically advanced setting. Building a reputation for more than a century as one of the nation's premier children's hospitals, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital is affiliated with the Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and is Manhattan's only hospital dedicated solely to the care of children and one of the largest providers of children's health services in the tri-state area with a long-standing commitment to its community. It is also a major international referral center, meeting the special needs of children from infancy through adolescence worldwide. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report.

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