(New Brunswick) - As young athletes begin to train and practice for fall sports, Safe Kids Middlesex County, a program led by the Level One Trauma Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), encourages parents and coaches to understand and learn how to recognize sports-related injuries including heat-related illness, concussions, overuse injuries and injuries caused by pre-existing medical conditions.
Approximately 3.5 million children receive medical treatment for a sports-related injury each year. As many as half of these injuries are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“With high temperatures and vigorous practice sessions underway for school-age children, parents and coaches have an even greater role to play in keeping them safe,” said Diana Starace, Safe Kids Middlesex County coordinator. “It is vitally important to set realistic expectations for children about sports and understand how to help them prepare properly, prevent injuries and play safely.”
Safe Kids Middlesex County will host a clinic for Pop Warner coaches on Aug. 25 at the RWJ Rahway Fitness & Wellness Center, 2120 Lamberts Mill Road, Scotch Plains. The coalition is one of 20 across the country to receive funding for the Safe Sports clinics from Safe Kids USA, supported by founding sponsor Johnson & Johnson. This initiative focuses on four components critical to keeping young athletes healthy and injury-free: preventing acute and overuse injuries, proper hydration before, during and after play, annual pre-season medical screenings for each athlete and concussion awareness, prevention and screening methods.
Children ages five to 14 years account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments, with collision and contact sports associated with higher rates of injury. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that in 2009, among children ages 14 and under, 216,000 were injured playing football, more than 88,000 were injured playing soccer and over 115,000 were injured playing baseball or softball.
Dr. Heather Harnly, an attending pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Robert Wood Johnson whose specialties include sports medicine, explains that kids playing sports sustain two types of injuries: acute and overuse. Acute injuries usually result from a single, traumatic event and may include wrist fracture, ankle sprain, or shoulder dislocation. Overuse injuries occur over time and are more difficult to diagnose and treat because they usually are subtle. Most overuse injuries can be prevented with proper training, she said.
Regardless the type of injury, communication is key, she says. “Children should be taught to speak up and let a parent or coach know if they are experiencing pain, even if they are still able to train,” Harnly suggests. “Most children will let you know when they are hurt, but, for those kids who try to tough it out, parents and caregivers should watch for signs of injury such as limping, favoring one side of the body over the other or appearing to be in pain when using a particular body part.
“‘No pain, no gain’ does not apply here,” Harnly adds. “I've seen young children - kids in grade school - come in with stress fractures because they tried to continue to run and train despite the pain.”
Safe Kids Middlesex County offers the following sports injury prevention tips to coaches, parents and league organizers:
• Pre-Season Medical Screening: Every child should receive an annual pre-participation physical evaluation (PPE). These exams may prevent or treat any underlying conditions the young athlete may have.
• Safety gear: To prevent acute injuries, children playing sports should have access to and consistently use well-maintained safety equipment during both practices and games.
• Qualified coaching: Athletic coaches should be trained in both first aid and CPR, have a plan for responding to emergencies and have current knowledge of both safety rules and proper equipment use. Sports programs with certified athletic trainers on staff are ideal because they are trained to prevent or provide immediate care for athletic injuries.
• Proper Conditioning: To prevent acute and overuse injuries, coaches should teach young athletes proper routines for both warm-ups and cool-downs before and after practice and play. Sixty-two percent of sports-related injuries occur during practice.
• Hydration: Athletes should be encouraged to drink water before, during and after practice and competition.
• Rest: If young athletes are very tired or in pain, coaches and parents should encourage them to rest, as this valuable recovery time can help prevent acute and overuse injuries.
To learn more about or to attend a sports safety clinic in your area, contact Safe Kids Middlesex County at (732) 418-8026.
Journalists interested in attending the Aug. 25 clinic or arranging an interview with Diana Starace or Dr. Heather Harnly may contact Peter Haigney, director, or Zenaida Mendez, manager, at RWJUH Public Relations - (732) 937-8521.
About Safe Kids Middlesex County
Safe Kids Middlesex County works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages one to 14. Its members include injury prevention advocates from local government, civic organizations, businesses and health care organizations. Safe Kids Middlesex County is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Middlesex County was founded in 2003 and is led by the Level One Trauma Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital.
About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 965-bed academic medical center with campuses in New Brunswick and Somerville, NJ. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation, cancer care, stroke care, neuroscience, joint replacement, and women’s and children’s care including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (www.bmsch.org). As the flagship Cancer Hospital of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the principal teaching hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, RWJUH is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. A Level 1 Trauma Center and the only Pediatric Trauma Center in the state, RWJUH’s New Brunswick campus serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness.
RWJUH has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report seven times and has been selected by the publication as a high performing hospital in numerous specialties. The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has been ranked among the best hospitals in America by U.S. News & World Report for three consecutive years.
Both the New Brunswick and Somerset campuses have earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety, including the prestigious Magnet® Award for Nursing Excellence, an “A” patient safety rating from the Leapfrog Group and “Most Wired” designation by Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine. The Joint Commission and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services have designated the New Brunswick Campus as a Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Somerset Campus as a Primary Stroke Center.
The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH New Brunswick among the nation’s best comprehensive cancer centers and designated the Steeplechase Cancer Center at RWJ Somerset as a Comprehensive Community Cancer Center. The Joint Surgery Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset has earned the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for total knee and total hip replacement surgery.