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Patient Question

Would You Know When to Bring an Injured Athlete to the ED?


Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Division Chief, Pediatric Emergency Medicine

Director, Pediatric Emergency Department
Stony Brook Long Island Children's Hospital

Expert Answer

Stony Brook Long Island Children's Hospital is designed and equipped to treat the needs of young athletes. Although all injuries do not require immediate care, there are some situations that parents and coaches should address in the emergency department. For example, an obvious fracture or dislocation of a joint, prolonged swelling, severe pain or signs of a head injury should be addressed quickly by a trained medical professional.

Dr. Sergey Kunkov, Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Stony Brook Children's, recommends following the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to recognize a concussion. Note that if an injured player:

  • Appears dazed or stunned
  • Is confused about assignment
  • Forgets plays
  • Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
  • Moves clumsily
  • Answers questions slowly
  • Loses consciousness
  • Shows behavior or personality changes
  • Can't recall events prior to hit
  • Can't recall events after hit

Or the athlete himself/herself might report the following symptoms if he/she has a concussion, including a:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Feeling foggy or groggy
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Confusion , then the athlete needs to be taken off the field and evaluated in the Pediatric Emergency Department

Although Dr. Kunkov encourages student participation in physical activity at any level, he cautions athletes not to feel pressure to play through intense pain. "I'd rather see any injured player be properly evaluated and perhaps miss a short portion of play rather than ignore a potentially serious injury and miss a whole season," he added.

When treating the more common strains and sprains Dr. Kunkov reminds parents to use the "RICE" method.

  • Rest: Reduce ore stop using the injured area for at least 48 hours. If you have a leg injury, you many need to stay off of it completely.
  • Ice: Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day. Use a cold pack, ice bag, or a plastic bag filled with crushing ice that has been wrapped in a towel.
  • Compression: Ask you child's doctor about elastic wraps, air casts, special boots, or splints that can be used to compress an injured ankle, knee, or wrist to reduce swelling.
  • Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.

If an athlete cannot bear weight on the injured leg or has a severe pain or bruising and swelling around the ankle or knee, your best bet is to visit Pediatric Emergency Department for evaluation. All athletes can expect a safer season if they start off in proper physical condition, follow the rules of the sport, wear appropriate protective gear, warm up before game time, avoid playing tired or in pain, and stay hydrated.

For Additional Information Contact (631) 444-4000

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