Take sports injuries like pros: seriously

Just for kids

Kid News

April 22, 1999|By DON BABWIN | DON BABWIN,Chicago Tribune

Maybe you saw it on TV during the football playoffs. San Francisco's Garrison Hearst broke his ankle in a game against Atlanta. It looked gross and painful.

And maybe next season you'll see Hearst trot onto the field like nothing happened. What you won't see is how many hours he'll have spent lifting weights, exercising, stretching and resting.

So what does this have to do with you? A lot, doctors and trainers say. When it comes to injuries, kids have to treat themselves like pro athletes.

"Kids need to know injuries need to be taken seriously," Dr. Dot Richardson says. And she knows about injuries both as a doctor and an athlete -- she starred on the women's gold-medal softball team in the 1996 Olympics. In fact, injuries like broken bones can be especially serious for kids, because they "can affect growth," Richardson says.

It's important to tell someone about an injury. "Kids are afraid that if they come down to see us, we will tell them they have to sit out," says Mike Dubic, a chiropractor and certified athletic trainer. "They don't want to disappoint their coaches and themselves."

The problem with keeping quiet is that without proper treatment, injuries can get worse -- and can keep you out of action even longer.

Sometimes minor injuries require only what Richardson calls RICE: Rest, ice, compress, elevate. That means if you hurt, say, your ankle, treatment may mean sitting with your foot on a pillow, wrapped in a bandage with ice on it.

And nobody knows how much you hurt better than you. "I was hounded and made fun of by other players who didn't believe I was hurt," said Scott T., a high school football player. Only after he had knee surgery did other players understand how serious his injury was.

So don't let anybody pressure you into playing again before you're ready. And don't pressure yourself. "Ligaments can re-tear and fractured limbs can re-fracture," says Dr. Mark Moran, an orthopedic surgeon.

Like pros, kids need to follow an exercise and rehabilitation program. Stuff like stretching and resting might be a drag, but as Moran says: "It's like remembering to do homework or take out the garbage." It's dirty work, but you've gotta do it.

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