Staying in the Game

Rest resolves most youth sports injuries, but specialization can lead to surgery


Published:

Photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

If you have a child who excels at a favorite sport, you’ve probably found yourself caught up in the busy world of travel and club sports — high-level teams designed to maximize performance and exposure for your budding star athlete.

Before you know it, your son or daughter is playing for multiple teams, traveling to tournaments, practicing constantly and even taking private lessons. For many families, the end game is to land a college athletic scholarship. But, oftentimes, injuries are the more likely outcome — at least in the short term.

With increased specialized sports participation comes the likelihood of overuse injuries, and the cause is obvious to orthopedic doctors. Many kids today “specialize” in one sport, rather than play a variety of sports in different seasons. As a result, these athletes stress their growing bodies in the same joints and muscles without enough downtime. The good news is that most injuries to young athletes are easily treated with rest.

All You Need is … Rest

Dr. William Hage, M.D., specializes in arthroscopic treatments for knee and shoulder injuries at EmergeOrtho, which has multiple locations throughout the Triangle. He estimates that 90 percent of the injuries he treats are sports-specific. Baseball players usually suffer from shoulder and elbow pain in the throwing arm, while soccer players often deal with inflammation around the knee and heel.

“I see so much more of that because kids are playing the same sport all year round and not switching gears,” Hage says. “Trying to tell the parents that that’s the source of the problem as well as the key to healing is the challenge. They’re afraid they are missing some opportunity for their kid to move up the ranks.”

Hage says he spends a lot of time trying to convince parents and kids that time on the sidelines is the only way to heal completely.

“It sometimes takes six to eight weeks of rest or modified rest, where they are still participating,” he says. “In baseball, maybe you’re still hitting or taking fielding practice, but you’re not pitching. In soccer, do the drills, but maybe you don’t need to play in the scrimmages. The outcomes if you rest are amazing. Kids heal incredibly well almost every time. If you don’t rest, and you push through the pain, usually kids just break down.”

When Surgery Becomes Necessary

Some injuries do require surgery to get back in the game, whether they are caused by overuse or an acute traumatic injury, such as a collision or a stressful movement. Baseball pitchers are vulnerable to stretching and tearing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow, which requires a ligament reconstruction procedure known as Tommy John surgery. Athletes who play cutting and pivoting sports such as basketball, football and soccer are prone to tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee, which also requires surgery to return to sports.

So what can you expect if your child needs to go under the knife to get back in the game? The surgeries that treat most routine sports injuries have been in place for many years, and they typically return the athlete to full strength. While these procedures haven’t undergone significant innovations in recent years, there have been some advances that make the process easier on the patient.

“Surgeries in general are becoming more minimally invasive,” says Dr. Jocelyn Wittstein, M.D., a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon for Duke Health. “All these procedures on adolescents are outpatient procedures. They’re going home the same day.”

While those short-term improvements make recovery a bit easier, the length of recovery has not necessarily diminished. Wittstein says that in some cases, the time it takes to return to a sport after surgery has increased “because people recognize the risk of re-injury. For ACL tears, we know the risk of re-injury is lower if you return to sport in no sooner than nine months. People used to return to basketball and soccer at six months after an ACL tear. The problem is patience and investing in one’s future versus immediate satisfaction.”

Keep in mind that overuse — throwing too many pitches in baseball, for example — is not the only cause of injuries. Most knee injuries are the result of twisting, awkward landings and the stress of directional change on the joint. So, the more often you play, the more you put yourself at risk.

“These are not necessarily just overuse injuries, they’re just exposure-related,” Wittstein says. “If you have more exposures to cutting and pivoting activity, you’re probably more likely to have a moment where something like that occurs.”

If your child is determined to play a particular sport throughout the year, Wittstein suggests following a preventive injury exercise program that emphasizes balance, flexibility and strength. And when the physical demands of playing the games start taking a toll on your child, take control of the situation.
“Do not overbook them,” she says. “And parents need to communicate with the coaches. You really have to stand your ground.”

Platelet-Rich Plasma Injections

There are some relatively new treatments for healing sports injuries, such as platelet-rich plasma injections. This procedure involves injecting one’s own treated blood into an injured area to promote healing and reduce pain and inflammation. Dr. William Hage, M.D., at EmergeOrtho has used the treatment on adults with tennis elbow, but he does not recommend the procedure for adolescents.

“It’s not something I have done in kids because, number one, kids heal incredibly fast anyway; and, number two, kids hate needles. The idea of doing that with a kid is a little off the standard of care. And frankly, it’s still in a very early, experimental phase.”

ACL Injury Prevention Seminar

Join Duke Sports Medicine specialists for a seminar on ACL injury prevention Sept. 30, 2018, 5-6 p.m., at Soccer Genome, 9101 Durant Rd., Raleigh. Parents, coaches and athletes are invited to see presentations on ACL injury prevention and concussion management. Demonstrations and a Q&A session follow. This event is being hosted by Wake County Sports Medicine Providers:

  • Dr. Jocelyn Ross Wittstein, M.D.
  • Dr. Tally E. Lassiter Jr., M.D., MHA
  • Melissa Raddatz, MSN, FNP-BC
  • Dr. Jason Lee, M.D.

 Register at evite.me/H52PzZGUAV.


Kurt Dusterberg is a freelance writer in Apex. He is the Carolina Hurricanes correspondent for nhl.com and author of the book, “Journeymen: 24 Bittersweet Tales of Short Major League Sports Careers.

 

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February 2019

The Flying Biscuit Café celebrates National Pancake Month by bringing back its Red Velvet Pancakes. The delicious red velvet pancakes, complete with hand-made cream cheese...

Cost: Dine-in purchase required

Where:
Flying Biscuit - Raleigh
2016 Clark Ave.
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Join park staff in collecting data for the 22nd annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

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Telephone: 191-946-03355
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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NC State Fairgrounds: Holshouser Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Spring Haven Farm
5306 Homer Ruffin Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC  27516
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Sponsor: Spring Haven Farm
Telephone: 919-407-1806
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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
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9950 Durant Rd.
Raleigh , NC  27614
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Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

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2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: $25/person

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Morning Glory Inn Bed & Breakfast
507 East 2nd Street
Clayton, NC  27520
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Cost: Free

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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Cost: Dine-in purchase required

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Flying Biscuit - Raleigh
2016 Clark Ave.
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View map »


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Come by the park center any time during the four days of the Great Backyard Bird Count to view a free slideshow of the birds of Yates Mill Pond. Over 150 photographs of birds are featured in the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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More information

Join park staff in collecting data for the 22nd annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
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View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

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Harris Lake County Park
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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3200 Pleasant Union Church Road
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Telephone: 191-987-04330

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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East St.
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
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Cost: Free

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Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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William Peace University presents its final concert of the 2018-2019 year of the Manning Music Series in partnership with the North Carolina Symphony.  The concert features the String...

Cost: Free

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William Peace University
15 East Peace St.
Kenan Hall
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Cost: Dine-in purchase required

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Flying Biscuit - Raleigh
2016 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »

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Cost: Free

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The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Website »

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Cost: $15/child, use your package/membership.

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Kids Mindful Movement - Chapel Hill
781 Mt Carmel Church Rd
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Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Cost: Free

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Sanderford Road (Softball Field)
2623 Sanderford Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
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The Flying Biscuit Café celebrates National Pancake Month by bringing back its Red Velvet Pancakes. The delicious red velvet pancakes, complete with hand-made cream cheese...

Cost: Dine-in purchase required

Where:
Flying Biscuit - Raleigh
2016 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Website »

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Is it true that Turkey and Eagle once faced off to see who would be our national bird? Find out the answer and discover the natural characteristics that made each bird a contender. Celebrate...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
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More information

Connect with your baby, other parents and yourself during this adult-focused postpartum yoga class. Recommended for babies newborn to walking. Take a mat, a blanket for your little one, and...

Cost: $15 or use class pass/membership

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Kids Mindful Movement - Pittsboro
184 East Street
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Cost: Free

Where:
Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
Telephone: 919-831-1898
Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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The Flying Biscuit Café celebrates National Pancake Month by bringing back its Red Velvet Pancakes. The delicious red velvet pancakes, complete with hand-made cream cheese...

Cost: Dine-in purchase required

Where:
Flying Biscuit - Raleigh
2016 Clark Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27605
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Website »

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Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-996-2760
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Cost: $15/class, or use your class pass/membership.

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781 Mt. Carmel Church Rd.
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137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
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Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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The Halle Cultural Center
237 N. Salem St.
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Project Enlightenment
501 S. Boylan Ave.
Raleigh, NC
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Cost: Free

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Poe Center for Heath Education
224 Sunnybrook Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Cost: Dine-in purchase required

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Flying Biscuit - Raleigh
2016 Clark Ave.
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Cost: $5.00 per child for Arboretum family members, $7.00 per child for nonmembers (no

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JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-513-7011
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Cost: Free

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Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
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Cost: Free

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Crowder County Park
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Cost: $3

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Century Center
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: Free

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Sanderford Road Center
2623 Sanderford Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department
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Contact Name: Adam Sproles
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Cost: $3

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Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
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Cost: $25

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Cary Hot Yoga
952 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Cost: Free

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Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
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Cost: $20 for non-museum members

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Grace Bible Fellowship
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Cary, NC  27513
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Telephone: 919-468-4590
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Children make treasured memories while increasing their knowledge of plants and animals. Ages 7-10. Register online. Choose course #121613.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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More information

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Cost: $7 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
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Cost: 0

Where:
Orange County Public Library
137 W Margaret Lane
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 191-924-52539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Enjoy a docent-led tours through exhibits that highlight the contributions of African-Americans to North Carolina.

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Winter days find many animals curled up in their dens. They sleep warmly, awakening in spring ready to enjoy the renewed Earth. Discover how animals prepare for cold weather and which ones...

Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
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View map »

More information

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial; color: #403f42; -webkit-text-stroke: #403f42; background-color: #ccccb3} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Enjoy...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Telephone: 919-942-7373
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p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial; color: #403f42; -webkit-text-stroke: #403f42; background-color: #ccccb3} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Enjoy songs...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Telephone: 919-942-7373
Website »

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Gather 'round the campfire for an evening of storytelling, nature, and marshmallows. As dusk falls, we'll come together to meet new friends, enjoy quality time, and share a tale connected...

Cost: $2/person

Where:
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
8305 Camp Durant Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: center; font: 12.0px Arial; color: #403f42; -webkit-text-stroke: #403f42; background-color: #ccccb3} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Enjoy...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Telephone: 919-942-7373
Website »

More information

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Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2018-19 Education Guide offers 678 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools, academic resources and an Exceptional Child special section.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2018 Readers' Favorites are.