Now that fall is in full swing, many parents are already cheering on their children at track meets or Friday night football games. But while this time of year is exciting for student-athletes, it can also be dangerous. Come winter, most ski resorts require participants to sign a liability waiver, but not all schools have similar safeguards in place for their student-athletes. Yet when it comes to sports injury prevention, most parents assume that schools and coaches have everything covered. What if your child is injured during a game?
This scenario may be more likely than you realize. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 2.6 million children under the age of 19 are treated in emergency departments each year for sports- and recreation-related injuries. And while all sports come with risks, contact sports like football, hockey, and wrestling are especially dangerous. Volleyball, soccer, and basketball also pose serious risks. Even sports like cross country and tennis can result in injuries.
Since kids and parents alike can benefit from partaking in these activities, refraining from involvement may not be an option. But parents can help to protect their children during practices and games with the right tips in mind.
Get the right gear
Using the proper equipment is key to injury prevention, as well-fitting gear can certainly help to keep your child safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that players wear appropriate padding, helmets, face guards, cups, mouthpieces, and eyewear. Of course, it’s important to drive home the fact that these protective elements may not stop injuries from occurring. Hockey, wrestling, and football come with high concussion rates and have even resulted in recent fatalities among young athletes. It’s not enough to merely wear the right equipment. Protective gear must be worn correctly and other measures should be taken to prevent young players from injury.
Encourage proper training
Conditioning can help to reduce the risk of injuries during practices and games. Rather than go into the season cold, it’s a good idea for young athletes to stay active in the off-season. Improving muscular strength, flexibility, stamina, and cardiovascular fitness year-round can reduce their overall risk of injury once the season begins. That said, it’s essential to take time off. Taking at least one day off per week — and one full month off per year — can allow the body to recover. Make sure to include technique, as well as hydration and nutrition, as part of the conversation. Moreover, dissuade your child from specializing in only one sport. This has been found to increase injury risk for young athletes.
Seek out medical care
Before the season starts, you should schedule a sports physical for your child to ensure that they’re in the right condition to play their sport of choice. Your family doctor may be able to spot potential issues and encourage healthy habits in your child or teen. If your child does become injured, make sure they know they should not push through it. While they might feel pressure from a coach or teammates to keep going, this will ultimately make an injury much worse and could even compromise their ability to play in the future. Aside from taking breaks to prevent overuse injuries, make sure that any sports-related issues are checked out by a medical professional right away. The “wait and see” approach could very well be the thing that keeps them on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
You can’t be there all the time to protect your child. However, discussing the possible risks of sports with your kids — and how to handle tough situations — can make all the difference. With these sports injury prevention tips in mind, parents can encourage healthy attitudes towards sports participation. Together, you can ensure that your kids are safer when they’re on the field, rink, or court.