Tips to Keep Kids Safe During Sports
The National Institute of Health reports that “38 million children and adolescents participate in organized sports in the United States each year.” And according to recent data, nearly 1.9 million children under the age of 15 were treated in emergency departments for sports-related injuries in a one-year period. But there are ways that parents can keep their children safe and become more involved in helping to prevent serious injuries.
Jennifer Naticchia, MD, Virtua sports medicine primary care specialist, says there are a few basic things that parents can do:
Keep your child well hydrated:
- Make sure that they have a water bottle or an electrolyte replacement drink with them at all practices and games.
- Explain that, even if it’s cold outside, young athletes still sweat, so being well hydrated will make them perform better.
- Teach kids that clear urine means good hydration.
Stress the importance of stretching:
- Train your child to stretch before and after practice. Stretching is proven to be one of the best ways to prevent injuries.
- Instruct them in basic arm and leg exercises and have them practice for 10 minutes every day, since most kids do not know how to stretch properly.
- Help them understand that stretching with teammates is also a good social opportunity to talk and decompress before playing and at cool down afterward.
Dedicate your child to the sport of the season:
- Choose one sport and make that their primary focus each season.
- Understand that as a result of participating in multiple sports, doctors have seen a 70% increase in overuse injuries in young athletes.
- Ensure that your child is getting the proper amount of rest between seasons by making a dedicated plan for the year that includes breaks—and stick with it.
Often kids want to be brave and tough, or they don’t want to get benched for the next game so they ignore an injury. As parents, it’s important to follow the “when in doubt, sit them out” rule. Parents know best if their child is out of sorts and needs to be seen by a doctor.
If a child is concerned, Dr. Naticchia offers parents this explanation to use with him/her: “Coming out of the game early or taking off a day will prevent a more serious injury that could take you out for the entire season.”
She adds that parents need to become more involved in the process: “The key to preventing serious health issues is for parents to attend games and practices and pull their child out if they see a situation where they suspect an injury. A concussion that goes undetected, for example, can lead to a life-threatening issue if the child gets injured again.”
Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to their children and sports injuries. And community education can play a vital role in helping parents, children and coaches learn the best way to prevent injuries together. But learning the basics of keeping kids safe during sports season will certainly save both you and your child a lot of tears.
To consult with a Virtua sports medicine specialist, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3.
Updated December 19, 2017