Published date: August 30, 2022
Returning to activity too soon after a sports injury can put children at risk of causing further damage. Learn how the experts on the sports medicine team at Arkansas Children’s follow a comprehensive plan to keep children safe after injuries.
Playing sports provides a lot of advantages for children, from the benefits of exercise to improved self-esteem and cognitive abilities. But, as every parent knows, sports also come with the risk of injury.
While it’s tempting to allow children to return to play as soon as they seem able, it’s important to give the injury enough time to heal properly. That’s why the sports medicine team at Arkansas Children’s follows “safe return to play” protocols to ensure that children are ready physically and mentally to get back in the game after injury.
“The goal of treatment is for children to get back to their sport and stay there,” said Brant Sachleben, M.D., chief of pediatric orthopedics and co-director of sports medicine at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. “We want them to get back as fast as possible, but in a way that doesn’t create a secondary injury.”
When a child has gone through treatment for an injury, Dr. Sachleben and his team go through three questions before clearing that patient to return to playing the sport:
To determine whether a child is ready to return to play safely, the sports medicine team often has the patient undergo a series of physical tests, depending on the type of injury. For example, after an ACL reconstruction, the child may undergo strength testing to ensure the injured knee has at least 85% of the strength of the non-injured knee. Other tests include movement and jump tests.
“We also look at mental readiness because being ready to return is not just physical,” Dr. Sachleben said. “You also get mental scars after an injury, and those can heal at different rates for different people. We use survey questions to ensure the patient is ready mentally to return to the sport.”
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