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Ask the Doctor: How to Deal with Kids’ Most Common Warm-Weather Injuries


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What does a pediatric orthopedic surgeon’s job entail?

I see children with musculoskeletal issues from birth to 18 years old.  I treat everything from sprains/strains to complicated congenital anomalies. Fortunately, the majority of pediatric orthopedic problems are broken bones and sports injuries that tend to heal quickly with great results. There are some conditions, such as cerebral palsy, hip dysplasia and clubfoot that require monitoring throughout much of childhood. Even though I am a surgeon, I try to exhaust all non-operative treatment options before proceeding to the operating room.

What are the most common injuries that you see this time of the year?

With sunny days and warm weather, kids spend more time outdoors. They are more active, which is a good thing! Unfortunately, this does lead to more injuries. I treat far more fractures during the spring and summer months as a result of playground mishaps. The majority of these broken bones involve the arm and can be treated in a cast. There are also more sports injuries with baseball, soccer, and lacrosse seasons in full effect. These seasonal trends tend to bring children in for evaluation of ankle, knee, and elbow injuries.

What should a parent do if their child has one of these injuries?

Apply ice to the area immediately and elevate the area of concern above the level of the heart. This will help to minimize the swelling, which can lead to more pain. Also, try to avoid excessive movement that might make the pain worse. For example, have the child come out for the remainder of the game if you suspect an ankle sprain.

If the child has an injury that results in an obvious deformity, significant swelling or pain that cannot be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications, then the child should be evaluated in the emergency room.

What preventative measures can be taken to avoid sports injuries in children?

Just like adults, proper warm-up and stretching before sports is critical. This should be a 10-15 minute routine (at a minimum) prior to competing in any sport. This can certainly help to avoid some of the strains and sprains that can ruin a sports season for a child, or develop into a chronic problem.

If a child needs surgery, what are some of the primary concerns that a parent should have?

Speaking as both a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and a mother, I find it crucial to have a team of people experienced in dealing with children.  There is a saying in medicine – “kids are not little adults!”. Pediatric anesthesiologists are specially trained in putting children to sleep in a safe and gentle manner, oftentimes with no needles involved.  Pediatric nurses are experts in compassionately caring for children and parents who are understandably very anxious in a surgery setting.  The environment and the team can really help to alleviate some of the fear and anxiety related to a child having surgery. 

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Dr. Ellen Dean Davis is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with North Jersey Orthopaedic Group and Medical Director of Children's Ambulatory Surgery Center of New Jersey in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. She prides herself in treating every child as if they were one of her own, Dr. Davis takes a personalized approach with each family to ensure that the treatment plan best serves their child's individual needs. For more information on Dr. Davis or her practice, visit her website at www.cascnj.com

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