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Pain management options for youth sports injuries

Be informed about the risks of opioid use

Youth sports injuries and opioid use

Youth sports are an important part of a child’s social and emotional development and fuel a healthy and active lifestyle. However, sports can result in injuries that may leave players sidelined. As parents, it’s important to be prepared before an injury happens—and that includes being informed about opioid risks.

A child might be prescribed opioids—oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, etc. -- to manage pain after an injury, or following surgery or another procedure to treat their injury. In fact, sports-related injuries are often one of the first times children and teens are exposed to opioids. 

Opioids have side effects like nausea and dizziness, and can also lead to addiction and dependence. As millions of children face sports-related injuries each year, the risk of opioid exposure increases -- underscoring the need for education and awareness of non-opioid options and a plan for how to talk to providers.

Treating an injury with opioids can lead to misuse. Opioid misuse is 50% higher in kids who participate in high-injury sports than those who don’t. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 9.7 million people ages 12 and older misused prescription opioids in 2019. Improper disposal of opioids is another factor that can lead to misuse. Almost 90% of patients with leftover opioid pills didn’t dispose of them properly, with many keeping them in their homes and some sharing them with family or friends.

Fortunately, there are safe and effective non-opioid options available for children that can help reduce, or eliminate the need for opioids after surgery. In fact, 94% of surgeons agree non-opioid options can positively impact recovery and the ability to return to normal function following surgery.

Conversations about pain management should happen long before injury or surgery, and families should have plans in place around injuries and how to navigate opioids and alternative options. Recently, the National Safety Council and Pacira BioSciences, Inc., which sponsored this article, partnered to launch Connect2Prevent, a program that aims to educate employees and their family members on the importance of preventing opioid misuse. 

Launching publicly following a pilot program, enrolled participants will receive weekly lessons that provide information, action steps and ways to connect and communicate with teens, including evidence-based motivational interviewing strategies. The curriculum is focused on identifying opioid misuse, safe storage and disposal, stigma, talking to providers, refusal skills, harm reduction and more. Programs like Connect2Prevent and informative discussion guides can help prepare families for these important conversations. To learn more, visit

With fall sports season in full swing, the risk of injury increases. Understanding safe pain management can keep young athletes recover and stay healthy for years to come.

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Jelena Stanojkovic / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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