Injuries are a part of playing sports. How injuries, and potential subsequent surgeries, are managed can have a long-term impact on youth athletes. Pacira and NCYS have joined forces to provide safe and sensible information to keep young people in the game.

The Scope of the Problem

Youth athletes have a higher exposure to prescription opioids due to sports-related injuries. Given the increasing attention and publicity associated with promising young athletes, the pressure to perform at a high level from an early age has reached unprecedented levels.

  • Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others
  • 3 out of 10 teens who receive opioid prescriptions before their high school graduation are more likely to misuse opioids in the future, even among those with little drug experience and who disapprove of illegal drug use
  • There were an estimated 107,622 drug overdose deaths in the United States during 2021, an increase of nearly 15% from the 93,655 deaths estimated in 2020

The good news is, if your youth athlete ever needs surgery for a sports injury, there are non-opioid options that can be used to manage postsurgical pain

Preventing Injuries

There are a variety of things that help mitigate sports injuries. Talk with your young athlete about (1) getting a preseason physical, (2) encouraging multi-sport play and cross-training, (3) stressing the importance of warming up, (4) getting adequate rest and sleep (5) providing a healthy, well-balanced diet, (6) staying hydrated, (7) getting the proper equipment and the right fit, (8) emphasizing proper technique and (9) recognizing injury and getting help early. Get more details on the 10 Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries in Kids and Teens.

When to See a Doctor?

Returning from injury depends on early diagnosis and proper treatment. Determining when to see a doctor is an important step. Seek medical attention when a significant injury occurs.

What’s less apparent is when symptoms don’t stop play from occurring. Signs that you need to see a doctor for your sports-related injury include:

· Consistent pain during or after sports

· Persistent or new swelling around a joint

· Recurrent instability – joints “give way”

· Painful pops (nonpainful pops are OK)

· Pain that does not respond to a period of rest

Effective Non-Opioid Options

If a youth athlete needs surgery for a sports injury, there are non-opioid options that can be used to manage postsurgical pain. Opioids often come with risks and side effects that can hinder recovery. The best way to reduce opioid exposure is for a doctor to use a “multimodal” pain management approach, meaning that multiple types of pain medication are used in the smallest effective doses to provide effective pain control with minimal side effects and minimal reliance on opioids.

There are many different combinations of non-opioid treatments that make up a multimodal plan, including intravenous (IV) acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen, local anesthetics, gabapentin, etc. Long-acting numbing medications, which are injected during surgery, provide pain relief for the first few days after surgery, when pain is often at its worst. This helps reduce the need for opioids, as pain is already well managed.

Some 94% of surgeons agree that non-opioids can positively impact recovery and the ability to return to normal function following surgery. People who used non-opioids for postsurgical pain were more than three times as likely to have a 50% decrease in postsurgical pain compared to people who used an opioid. Non-opioid options have also been proven to provide an overall enhanced surgery and recovery experience.

Click here to create a customized discussion guide to help you prepare for a discussion with your child’s doctor about concerns and preferences for managing pain following surgery, and how to help the recovery process.

Hear former NBA great Grant Hill’s story about why choices matter.