With emergency rooms overcrowded with COVID-19 patients, and hospital resources limited and redirected, we want to avoid doing anything that necessitates our children having to see a doctor or visit an ER. An injury that was an easy fix before will be much more difficult and dangerous while we deal with the pandemic.
We want kids to remain physically active, and to use this time for independent free play and sports sampling, but parents should be mindful of the realities you will face if an injury occurs. Encourage safe, cross training sports but discourage anything that could be risky enough to break bones and cause visits to overburdened hospital systems.
While the numbers have declined, children are still showing up at emergency rooms and doctors’ offices with injuries from falls in playgrounds and other play spaces, as well as the kind of major trauma associated with bicycle and motor vehicle collisions.
Among the sports and activities that should be carefully considered for their potential risk are skateboarding, mountain biking, jumping on a trampoline, skiing, snowboarding and motorized sports like motocross and ATVs. Essentially, avoid any sport or activity with a reasonable risk of injury or fracture during normal participation.
Dr. Sasha Carsen, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and a member of PRiSM, created a simple calculation for parents to help them assess the risks in their children’s activities.
“The thought experiment I have provided for a number of families and kids has been, “In addition to social distancing, would you feel comfortable doing this if you knew that you could be upwards of a day away from acute medical care?”’’ he said.
A SILVER LINING
While the volume of sports-related traumatic injuries has decreased in recent weeks, orthopedists and sports medicine practitioners are hearing from patients with previously unreported sports-related overuse injuries and chronic pain issues.
“Kids and parents now have the time and energy to focus a little more on their day-to-day symptoms, feelings and concerns,” said Dr. Carsen. “Interestingly and anecdotally, some of us have been finding that there are youth presenting now, who may never have otherwise presented due to constraints of time and availability in-season.”
“In some ways, this is an opportunity for them,” he said, “as they actually have the time and space away from their competitive sport and season to have relative or active rest. But this also brings up other challenges, as it is much more difficult now to organize professional rehabilitation services.”
Dr. Carsen points out that the current limitations on social distancing and limited availability of recreational and competitive facilities offers a “forced opportunity” to have some relative rest, cross-train, and try out new things. Credible online resources for home exercise programs should be utilized during this time of limited professional rehabilitation services. The Health Information Library of the Orthopaedic Institute for Children offers excellent care guidelines for specific injuries and conditions. Check with your doctor for other recommendations and before you begin any new regimen.
It’s also a good time to check in with your young athletes and ask them about any pains or issues they might be experiencing. Now that there are no worries about being penalized for an injury, young athletes might be more willing to admit to–and even notice–pain.
Finally, let’s be realistic about the limitations we are facing right now. We are seeing a lot of creative and innovative solutions for young athletes to engage in new activities.
Be sure your children have appropriate guidance, instruction and supervision when undertaking a new activity, and that it is appropriate to the age, size, skill and ability of the individual.
Always follow local guidelines for social contact and distancing. Stay active and be safe.
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