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Evaluating Football Injuries by by Ted Ted A. A. Kaplan, Kaplan, MD, MD, FAAP, FAAP, After After Hours Hours Pediatrics Pediatrics Urgent Urgent Care Care Dr. Ted A. Kaplan is a board certified pediatrician at After Hours Pediatrics Urgent Care (www.afterhourspediatrics.com). School’s in session and that means football season. In today’s world, that includes children as young as four to five years old playing tackle football, with all the bells and whistles (helmets, refs, scoreboards, stadiums, etc.). It’s important to be able to evaluate your child for certain types of injuries.

Injured Arms and Legs For the younger kids (under the age of ten), unless you see some obvious deformity in the arms or legs, it will be rare your child has a serious injury, even with lots of crying and thrashing around. Gently take the child off the field and put ice on the injured area for 15 minutes: always place a cloth between the skin and the ice pack to avoid injury). If your child’s injury needs further attention, give a dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and wait at least another hour

or two before seeking medical attention. This approach will save a lot of unnecessary trips to the doctor.

If there is a visibly deformed bone, call 911 so fire rescue can splint the limb and transport your child for medical attention.

If things are improving, but there is still a sore area, continue ice treatment for 15 minutes every two hours (again, through a cloth so you don’t freeze the skin); give acetaminophen as needed; and instruct your child not to use the area until it is pain free. Your child should not go back into a game or back to practice until there is no pain or limping without the use of pain medicine. Some extra padding to the area that was injured (usually bruised) will make things more comfortable for your little player.

Head and Neck Injuries

You may visit the doctor to check out continuing pain sometime within the first 48 hours. Even if it is determined there is a broken bone, waiting the extra time to see if the symptoms resolve will not delay healing.

Head injuries can lead to concussions and brain damage that get worse with repeated exposure. If your child is complaining of headaches related to football, he should stop play and see his doctor.

Head and neck injuries are treated more cautiously since the potential consequences of an injury can be serious. The good news is it is rare to have significant head or neck injuries before 14-15 years old. The culprit in most of these injuries is head/helmet tackling, so do what you can to make sure your child doesn’t do this and that his coaches don’t teach or encourage it. If your child is complaining of either head or neck pain, he should stop any further play until cleared by a doctor. If he is lying on the field complaining of either of these, call 911 so he can be moved in a safe manner.

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