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Where should my child go for a sports injury?

Sports injuries are a common occurrence in children at any type of practice or competition—or even at home. Take your child to a pediatrician for broken bones, sprains, strains and ligament tears, and can refer to a specialist as needed. If your child has sustained a more serious injury, however, emergency care may be required. Visit the emergency room (ER) if your child has these symptoms:
  • The child is younger than four years old and is unable to bear weight on the injured leg or use an injured arm.
  • The bone is protruding from the skin or the injured limb looks misshapen.
  • The child lost consciousnesses or has a change in level of consciousness (asks repetitive questions, has memory loss).
  • The child vomited more than once.
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Neck pain
  • Difficulty breathing
If your child sustains an injury while involved in sports, your initial visit should be to his or her primary care doctor. Your child will then be evaluated to determine the nature and severity of the injury and a decision can be made regarding treatment options. Most injuries can probably be addressed at that time, but if needed, the primary can get other providers involved in the child’s care. Obviously, if the injury is severe and requires immediate attention, do not hesitate to visit the nearest emergency room for evaluation.

The answer to this question may largely be influenced by the severity of your child’s injury. In cases of more serious injury, such as a fracture or laceration, where immediate medical attention is warranted, you should proceed to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. In cases where immediate medical care is not necessary, sprains, strains and overuse injuries, taking your child to a family practice physician who is trained in sports medicine is a great choice. Unlike other family practice physicians who may be unfamiliar with many common orthopedic and sports-related conditions, sports medicine trained physicians have a wealth of knowledge and experience assessing and treating a wide variety of pathologies experienced by physically-active individuals. Your physician will also be knowledgeable in making an appropriate referral, as necessary, for follow-up care with another physician, an athletic trainer or another health care provider.

(This answer provided for NATA by James R. Scifers, DScPT, PT, SCS, LAT, ATC.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.