Your Guide to Sprains, Strains and Shin Splints in Kids

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sprains in kids

You can’t prevent every bump, scrape and bruise during childhood. But you can help  reduce your child’s risk for sports injuries such as strains, sprains and shin splints.

Mary Solomon, DO, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s, advises, “Make sure your young athlete warms up properly before any game or practice and cools down after. Eating a healthy diet and staying in shape can also keep growing bones, joints and muscles safe.”

When injury does strike, use this guide from Dr. Solomon to know what to do. Fast treatment helps children return to the activities they enjoy.

Sprains

Situation: Your child falls on, twists or gets hit on the knee, wrist, elbow or ankle.

Symptoms: He or she may feel a pop or tear when the sprain – an injury to a ligament that connects and stabilizes joints – occurs.  Pain, swelling and bruising often develop afterward.

Smart start: Use the RICE method – rest, ice, compression with an elastic bandage and elevation.

Signs to look for: If the swelling and pain are intense, if the joint is locked or unstable, or if your child can’t put any weight on the joint, take him or her to the emergency department

Strains

Situation: Your child twists, pulls or overstresses a muscle, such as when throwing a pitch or kicking a soccer ball.

Symptoms: Strains are stretches or tears in muscles or tendons that connect muscles to bones. They cause pain, limited motion, swelling, cramping and muscle weakness.

Smart start: Reduce swelling and pain with ice and rest.

Signs to look for: If your child has pain in the neck or back, if numbness or weakness runs down an arm or leg, or if there are changes in skin color, see a doctor.

Shin Splints

Situation: Your young runner or dancer repeatedly stresses his or her legs by increasing the time spent training.

Symptoms: Shin splints occur when muscles, tendons or the thin layer of tissue covering the shinbone become swollen and inflamed over time. Pain strikes the front lower leg.

Smart start: Encourage less-intense activity for two to four weeks, followed by a gradual return to activity. Slow down the running pace, avoid hills, or try biking or swimming instead.

Signs to look for: If your child’s pain doesn’t subside after some time off, call a doctor. This could be a sign of a stress fracture, a small crack in the bone that often requires crutches to heal.

Related links

When pediatric sports injuries occur, accurate diagnosis and treatment are crucial to avoid long-term growth or developmental injury effects. All of UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s experts have specialized training and are board-certified and fellowship-trained in pediatric sports medicine -- among the fewer than 200 such specialists across the nation. Learn more about pediatric sports medicine at UH Rainbow.

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