We’re a few months into the 2021 school year, which means we’re a few months into the beginning of sports and athletics as well! Grade school children and high school teens went to sports camps over the summer, but now the real competitions begin and unfortunately, so do the injuries. These injuries often require doctor appointments and the help of a skilled therapist to recover. One misconception about physical therapy in children or teens is there HAS to be a physical injury for a doctor to write a prescription for physical therapy. This is false! These children and teen do a significant amount of growing which can cause pain – Axes treats this.
As a parent, the thought of your child or teen getting injured is devastating. It is scary – and you don’t know what to do to help them heal and recover to get back into their sport. My job, as a physical therapist, is to answer all the questions about the injury, recovery, and time to return to their sport. Some of the top concerns we hear voiced from parents are “How long will my child be out of the sport?”, “How bad is the injury?”, “Is this a normal injury for my child to have at this age?”, and “What do they need to be doing at home?” These are all valid concerns for parents as well as the teen or child.
The type and severity of injuries a teen or child can experience can vary. An athlete can have pain in a joint or muscle, a sprain or strain of a ligament or muscle, a fracture of a bone, or a tear of ligament or muscle, just to highlight a few. Therapy is integral no matter the degree of injury for two important reasons – the first is to heal appropriately from the initial injury and the second is to prevent further injury. Understandably, parents can often dismiss is when a teen or child complains about pain. A better option is to seek guidance with pain whether it been knee, foot, growing, or any joint. This could turn into an injury later in life, when it would have been assessed with a few physical therapy visits at the initial onset of their pain. In the next paragraphs, I will explain the process of an initial evaluation of a child or teen that is referred to physical therapy by a physician.
What to expect at a Physical Therapy Evaluation for your child…
Entering the clinic for an initial evaluation with a skilled physical therapist sometimes can be intimidating and scary for both the injured teen or child and you, the parents. Don’t let nerves stop you from seeking help! Our job is to calm all nerves and really get to the root of the problem or injury. All evaluations start with simple questions that are used to figure out where the exact pain is and when it started. If a surgery is involved, we ask more specific questions including: type of surgery, if any hardware was used (pins or plate for broken bones), if a graft was used and what type (for ACL reconstructions), and how long between the injury and when surgery was performed. This might take the majority of the time during an evaluation, but it is so important that we understand everything about what happened and how the teen or child is feeling overall. Something we tell our patients during a first evaluation is, “I need you to tell me if something we do hurts or causes pain because I cannot feel what you are feeling after the injury.” We also make sure the child or teen is comfortable to tell us anything so we can provide and create an individualized treatment plan for recovery.
After all the chit chat, it is time for your Axes therapist to assess and examine the injury and pain. This includes moving the injured body part through range of motion, testing the strength, and assessing the joint mobility. If appropriate, we will also look at functional movements such as squatting, jumping, throwing, or anything else that might be causing pain to assess body mechanics. This sometimes can involve looking at the joint above and below to address weaknesses or poor flexibility, which might have caused or contributed to the current injury or could cause a future injury. With all the information gathered, we are able to look at the teen or child as a whole, address the injury, and educate you, the parent, and the patient on the best plan for recovery.
At the end of the evaluation, it is our goal for all questions to be answered, but we understand that the moment the parents and child or teen leave the clinic, there are always more questions that pop up. We encourage the patient and you, the parents, to always ask whether you wait until the next scheduled therapy session, email, or call us. We want to be available to answer any questions, and if we don’t have the answer to the question at the moment, we will coordinate as partners with your child’s doctor to get clarification. Treating this age group is one of my passions and I am always willing to answer questions, even if your teen or child is not currently a patient. Also know – NO question is a stupid question!
Kids are meant to be doing what they love – not held back by pain!
Has your child recently been complaining of new or worsening pain? Has this new season of athletics taken a toll on their body? Have they had an actual incident that caused a seemingly minor injury? Does your child consistently hurt or injure the same part(s) of their body?