When Summer Leads to Falls – Treating Childhood Injuries

Michelle Penque, MD and Michael Rauh, MD

Michelle Penque, MD and Michael Rauh, MD

Published July 20, 2018

Summertime is one of the best times in Buffalo. With warm weather, outdoor concerts, boating, beaches and so much more, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun all across Western New York. However, there are equally as many ways that fun outdoors can lead to injuries especially for the youngest members of the family. Fortunately, UBMD Physicians’ Group has you covered.

Summertime Injuries

Prevention is key. Most often, summertime injuries are preventable with proactive education and discussion with children about safe play.

When the sun comes out, so do the bikes, ATVs, lawnmowers and other summertime gear. While these can offer opportunities to get out and be active, they can also be the cause of accidents. In fact, according to Dr. Michelle Penque, medical director of pediatric emergency medicine at UBMD Pediatrics and Oishei Children’s Hospital, these activities are among the most common cause of visits to the ER.

“Falls out of open windows or screens, drownings and near-drownings, car versus pedestrian or bicycle, ATV accidents, bicycle and skateboard injuries, outdoor playground injuries, lawnmowers and dog bites” are some of the most common types summertime injuries, said Penque.

Playgrounds are also a mainstay of summer fun, and doctors see a number of injured children who have suffered scrapes, bruises and broken bones while playing on playgrounds.

“Our pediatric population is prone to acute injuries such as those seen on skateboards, injuries, trampolines and playgrounds,” said Dr. Michael Rauh, a sports medicine, knee and shoulder arthroscopy expert and clinical assistant professor of orthopaedics with UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Michael Rauh, MD discusses summer injuries for pediatric, adolescent and adult populations.

Overuse Injuries and Environmental Hazards

Children and adolescents already involved with sports are also prone to injuries during the summer months. Many young athletes participate in their sports all throughout the year, and while it may be easy to think this kind of persistent activity is key to being a successful player, it can also lead to overexertion and injury – something to keep particularly in mind during National Youth Sports Week, recognized by the National Council of Youth Sports as the week of July 16-22.

“[Overuse] injuries are seen in athletes training in the same sport four seasons a year,” said Rauh. “Baseball, softball, running and swimming are some of the most common ‘overuse’ sports.” He encourages a multi-sport approach and to engage in other types of activities for a portion of the year, giving a reprieve to some of the most-used muscle groups while offering an opportunity to work out other muscles and participate in different activities.

Beyond the ballfields, summertime brings other risks as well. For example, once the snow melts, the insects start to emerge and become a threat. Bugs like mosquitoes and ticks can carry a variety of different diseases, while other insects, like bees and wasps, can sting children – and adults – and cause serious and even fatal reactions.

Above all – literally speaking – is the sun. While it can be tempting to bask in the warmth during the summer season, it’s important to use sunscreen and limit exposure to prevent painful sunburns that can lead to blisters and pain in the short term and increase long-term risk for skin diseases and cancer.

Seeking Treatment

If your child is hurt or injured this summer, there are a number of treatment options available. But the first step should be to consult with your regular doctor or pediatrician.

“I would encourage [parents] to call their primary care physician first,” said Penque. “They can help decide where to seek the most appropriate and best care.”

For some of the most serious or urgent injuries to bones, joints and muscles or for diagnosing and treating concussions, patients may turn to UB OrthoCare, a service of UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. As an urgent care option, OrthoCare offers extended hours at three Western New York locations – the Amherst Health Center on Harlem Road, BrookBridge in Orchard Park and the Summit Healthplex in Niagara Falls.

Prevention Is the Best Medicine

Of course, the best course of treatment is a focus on prevention. Preventing injuries in the first place can take many forms, and depends on the types of actions and activities. A bit of proactive education and discussion with children can help ensure safe play and reduce the likelihood of injuries.

“Encourage use of helmets and knee pads,” said Rauh. Protective equipment has been shown time and again to prevent minor injuries and reduce the severity of impacts, making it an essential part of playing safe, whether it’s bicycling and skateboard or participating in contact athletics.

Athletes should also be in-tune with their limits and not overexert themselves. Overtraining can lead to issues with muscle tissues, while encouraging young players to adopt more of a multi-sport mentality can offer children a chance to work out other muscle groups and expose them to different types of activities or sports, said Rauh.

It’s also important to stay mindful of the environment and take steps to prevent exposure to sun and insects. Using a good bug repellant, applying sunscreen regularly, and wearing broad-billed headwear and long-sleeve shirts can all help to prevent sunburn and insect-borne infections or irritations. And – of course – don’t forget to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Having Fun in the Sun

All throughout the summer, there are so many ways to get out, have fun and be active – and do it all safely.

“Use common sense and follow the advice given to you by your pediatrician to help prevent these avoidable injuries,” said Penque.

Accidents can still happen even with the best of intentions, however, and when they do, UBMD Physicians’ Group is here to take care of you and your loved ones. To schedule an urgent appointment with UB OrthoCare, call 716.204.3200, or contact UBMD Pediatrics at Oishei Children’s Hospital’s emergency room by calling 716.323.2100. And, for life-threatening emergencies, always dial 911.