Pediatric Orthopedic Injuries: Prevention and Treatment

  • March 23, 2017
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Note: This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of professional medical treatment or diagnosis from a doctor, surgeon, therapist, or other expert.


For many people, orthopedic injuries are something that only adults need to worry about— issues like tennis elbow, rotator cuff problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome aren’t usually associated with children.

Unfortunately, orthopedic injuries in children are extremely common. Sports, accidents, and even routine play can all result in damage to children’s feet, ankles, knees, hips, elbows, and shoulders.

In addition to the pain and discomfort associated with orthopedic injuries, they can also have long-term developmental repercussions for children who are still growing and developing. That’s why proper diagnosis, treatment, and above all prevention of these injuries are so important.

What Are Pediatric Orthopedic Injuries?

Pediatric orthopedic injuries generally fall into one of two categories: acute and overuse.

Acute Orthopedic Injuries

Acute injuries are caused by sudden collisions, falls, twists, or other sudden trauma. Broken bones, sprains, strains and bruises are common acute orthopedic injuries.

Acute injuries are usually easy to diagnose, and may not have any long-term effects once properly healed. Unless long-term complications result, treatment usually involves proper first aid and applying the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevating the affected area) to reduce pain and healing time.

Acute injuries should always be treated by or followed-up with a trip to a doctor.

Orthopedic Injuries of Overuse

Whereas acute injuries are caused by sudden trauma, overuse injuries are results of long-term wear and tear on muscles, bones, and joints. These injuries are most common in young athletes who play organized sports in school or other leagues.

Because overuse injuries happen more gradually than acute injuries they are often harder for parents, coaches, and other adults to notice. Children may also be reluctant to vocalize their discomfort for psychological reasons.

Adults should be aware of common signs and symptoms of overuse injuries, including:

  • Reluctance or disinterest in play or practice
  • Visible swelling in the affected area
  • Changes in technique or form
  • Pain or discomfort

Common overuse injuries are in the elbows, knees, hips, Achilles tendons, and shins (shin splints). Persistent pain or discomfort anywhere in the body should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor as soon as possible.

Preventing Orthopedic Injuries in Children

The best way to address pediatric orthopedic injuries is to keep them from ever happening in the first place.

Physical activity, especially organized sport, always carries some risk of injury. But with proper care, this risk can be mitigated as much as possible. Here are some general tips on prevention of orthopedic injuries in children.

  • Girls Basketball Teenager Female Basketball AthleteMake sure proper gear is always available and correctly worn. Helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, shin guards, facemasks, and other sport-specific gear is essential to prevent injury.
  • Organized sports leagues should be overseen and maintained properly, with a commitment to injury prevention and trained adult supervision.
  • Make sure children are trained on proper form when engaging in activities like running and gymnastics. Warm-ups and cool-downs should be a part of every young athlete’s regular routine.
  • Encourage proper hydration at all times.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons also recommends the following to prevent overuse injuries:

  • Prevent overexertion of kids by limiting the number of leagues they participate in in a single season. Training or playing with multiple sports leagues in a single week or even day can reduce the amount of necessary resting and healing time.
  • Don’t let a child play only one sport year round. Regular breaks and playing other sports to diversify movement is essential to skill development and injury prevention.

Treating Pediatric Orthopedic Injuries

Treatment for orthopedic injuries in children varies widely based on the nature and severity of the injury. In addition to immediate first aid, surgery may be required in some particularly severe cases.

Individual treatments should be based on the recommendations of doctors and orthopedic professionals.

 Pediatric Physical Therapy

In many cases, pediatric physical therapy can be used to treat orthopedic injuries and help recover after orthopedic surgery.

Physical therapy for the treatment of pediatric orthopedic injuries can include the following:

  • Developing stretching programs to promote improvements in muscle length and joint range of motion
  • Decreasing pain through use of therapeutic modalities
  • Acquisition of adaptive equipment and patient education as needed to suit each individual child’s needs
  • And more

Pediatric Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic therapy, which uses the unique properties of water and water immersion to aid the therapy process, may also be useful in treating orthopedic injuries in children.

Pediatric Physical Therapy Services in Connecticut

If you live in Connecticut and your child has suffered an orthopedic or sports injury, physical therapy services from Cheshire Fitness Zone in Cheshire and Meriden can help. Get in touch to learn more today.

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