Scrapes and bumps are an easy fix—just slap on an ice pack or bandage and your guy's good to go. But kids' injuries have taken a turn for the serious, according to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Over a ten-year period, researchers found a 400 percent increase in school-age knee injuries, including tears in the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament, which helps hold the knee together) and the meniscus (the cartilage in the knee). “Today's kids are playing sports earlier and also concentrating on a single sport in some cases,” says Joel Brenner, M.D., chairman of the AAP's Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. This puts added stress on immature bones, joints, and muscles. Plus, the need to surgically repair some of these injuries may lead to arthritis in the future and could disturb a child's growth. “Tendinitis and stress fractures are also rising,” notes Dr. Brenner.
To keep your young athlete safe:
1. Play a variety of sports. Month after month of the same kind of physical activity is too much for a young body.
2. Learn the right moves.Strength and conditioning workouts (lunges, squats, running) should be a part of team sports practices.
3. Bend it like Beckham. Flexible muscles and tendons may be less prone to injury, so be sure your kid stretches before and after. Play basketball one season, soccer or tennis another. Each sport teaches different skills, so your child will become a better athlete overall.