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Doc Talk | Sports injuries in children

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Pediatric surgeons say they’re seeing more and more kids hurting themselves in sports, mostly due to overuse. Doctors say this used to be an issue primarily with athletes and adults but not anymore.

Doctors say because kids aren’t done developing, playing sports can be much more impactful on their bodies and not necessarily in a good way. Pediatric surgeons say for kids, resting is just as important as practicing.

“This should be his ACL which should look like a nice thick black line like this ligament going in this direction.”

When it comes to professional sports, it seems as though we hear about ACL tears all the time. But more and more, they’re happening in children sometimes as young as eight years old. Geisinger Holy Spirit pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Meagan Fernandez says more children are specializing in single sports.

“Playing a single sport on multiple teams so they plan on the travelling team, they play on the school team, they play on the local elite team, so kids can still get overuse injuries just like adults,” said Dr. Fernandez.

She says kids used to play several sports, for instance football one season and basketball the next, but that’s changed.

She says they’re missing out because playing multiple sports has benefits.

“Encouraging kids to play multiple sports throughout the year allows them to use different muscles,” said Dr. Fernandez.

It also allows kids to rest in between seasons, which is important for their still growing bones.

“Children aren’t small adults. They have different injuries. Their bones are more elastic,” said Dr. Fernandez.

Even though kids heal faster than adults, their surgeries and treatment can be more complicated since doctors have to try and avoid their growth plates.

“We can’t just treat them like we would an adult because we risk injuring their growth plate and causing them either a growth disturbance or a deformity.”

Dr. Fernandez encourages parents to let their kids play several sports so they can use different muscles. They also suggest children do additional strengthening and conditioning to avoid injury and rest.

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