Almost three out of every four families with school-aged kids have at least one child who plays organized sports. That’s great! Sports provide physical, emotional and social benefits for kids of all ages. But with sports unfortunately also comes the risk of injury.
The good news is, as parents and coaches, there are lots of simple things you can do to prevent injuries and keep kids playing the sports they love.
Use proper equipment
Make sure young athletes are wearing appropriate and well-fitted safety equipment. This includes:
- Helmets, for sports like football and lacrosse.
- Mouth guards, which are inexpensive and can help reduce injury to the mouth, teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue.
- Sunscreen for outdoor sports.
- Properly fitting shoes or cleats.
Be aware of heat-related illness
Compared to adults, children are at an increased risk of suffering heat-related illness because they have a lower sweating capacity and produce more metabolic heat during physical activities.
- Kids just getting back into sports shape after a summer off are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness. Keep an eye on those children in particular.
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illness, which include nausea, dizziness and elevated body temperature.
- Reduce the risk of heat illness by making sure young athletes stay hydrated. That means drinking water before, during and after all activities.
Nearly half of all sports injuries are from overuse or overexertion and can be easily avoided with proper rest.
- Plan at least one day off per week to allow a child to rest and recuperate.
- Coaches, rest players during practice and games to avoid overuse.
- Children who play multiple sports that use the same body part (like swimming and baseball, for example) are at a higher risk of overuse injuries and should be extra careful.
- Kids should take two to three months off from each sport every year to avoid overuse.
Be smart when it comes to head injuries
Concussions are serious, traumatic brain injuries that get worse each time they happen. It’s important to know the warning signs of something as serious as brain trauma. Concussion symptoms include:
- Headache, vomiting or nausea.
- Trouble thinking normally.
- Memory problems.
- Fatigue and trouble walking.
- Dizziness and vision problems.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
These symptoms can occur right away, but may not start for weeks or even months. If your child or athlete has any of these symptoms, contact a doctor immediately.