Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How Do You Know When Your Child is Really Injured?

Ronda suggested to me that the book Jim & I are writing should include more on what we know that is rather unique, that is, about coaching your own children. While she was over today we were discussing one of the most troubling questions to parents, I think, which is when you know that your child is injured as opposed to just tired, sore, bored,scared or wanting to get out of practice for some other reason. As a parent, it always helps to have an experienced coach to ask. But what if you ARE the coach?

Here are the list of steps I go through to determine if my child is really injured. Take these with a grain of salt. As my grandmother used to say, I am not the kind of doctor that does you any good. I'm a statistician with a Ph.D. Your mileage my vary.

  1. Tell them to get up & quit whining & go back and work out. If they do, they're fine.
  2. If they keep crying, invoke the 5 minute crying rule. Sometimes kids just want to know you care or want attention. Let them sit out for five minutes, get iced, get fussed over by mom or dad, whatever. Then ask, "Are you ready to go back?" If they do, they're fine.
  3. Check them out when they don't know you're looking. I can't tell you the number of times that I have seen a kid get knocked down and they're fine. Ten seconds later, they see Mom or Dad looking at them and they let out a howl like they've broken every bone in their body. If they are limping around when they go back on the mat, keep an eye on them. When the coaches and parent are not paying attention to the child, watch out of the corner of your eye and see if he or she is still favoring the injury. Often kids will forget they are supposed to be injured.
  4. Play a game at the end of practice, a really fun game. If the kid magically recovers and can run or pull during the game, they're fine. 
  5. At night, when your child is asleep, go into the room and gently touch or move the injured part. See if they react. If they react, this is a really bad sign. Go to the doctor. (Ronda wanted to know if I really did this when she was little. Yes, to her and all of her sisters.)
  6. Don't mention the injury the next morning and see if your child still complains.
  7. Take a day, a few days or a week off of practice. Maybe your child just needs a break. Ask your child each day to rate the pain on a scale of 1= doesn't bother me to 10 = I think I'm gonna die. If the number doesn't go down, A LOT from day one to day five, call the doctor.
  8. Anything that doesn't get better after a week or two, call the doctor. Kids heal fast. If something is still bothering your child two weeks after it happened, something is wrong.

Also, even if you are the coach, don't hesitate to call a more experienced coach and ask for advice. I'm lucky that one of my good friends who knows my children well is both a judo coach and physician.

    In the end, you know your own child best. It's popular (and a way to prevent lawsuits) to say that you should call the doctor or take your child to the ER any time you are in doubt, but that's not always practical unless you have infinite time and unlimited money.

    One of my daughters hated sports and had a new injury every day. A second likes sports a lot but is a bit of a hypochondriac. If I took her every time she said she needed to go, we'd have been in the doctor's office every two weeks. The other two, if they say they're injured, I drive them to the emergency room.

    When I hurt my knee as a teenager, before orthoscopes, no one could see anything on an x-ray and the first doctor told my mother

    "It's psychological, she's just afraid to compete."
      My mother said,
      "I know this kid and she's never been afraid to compete in her life." 
      She took me to a new doctor who pulled a sample of fluid from my knee and said to my mom,
      "It's not in her head, it's in her knee. I can see pieces of cartilage floating around in here, it's that bad."
      Your kid is, well, a kid! How does he or she know if this is just a minor injury that will just heal up on its own or something more serious? By the time your child has been competing for a few years, you can usually call it right away, like my mother did, but in the first few years, the steps above may help ease your mind a little and help you and your child make the right calls.


      Dan said...

      How to tell when your kid really is hurt.

      Bones sticking out of their skin.

      Eye pointing in different directions.

      Blood squirting over 3 feet (from anywhere).

      Says I broccoli for dinner!

      Dr. AnnMaria said...

      Well, yes, those would definitely be warning signs in my book