If you want your child to grow into a well-rounded adult, encouraging them to be more active in sports is a great way to do it. Playing sports promotes the physical, social, and mental development of a child in several ways. For one, it improves their hand-eye coordination and overall physical fitness. It also helps them learn sportsmanship, teamwork, and how to create lifelong friendships.
As important as a team sport can be in your child’s development, unfortunately, it also puts them at risk of sports-related injuries.
Over 3.5 million kids who are 14 years or younger sustain sports injuries every year. In fact, sports and recreational activities contribute to nearly 21% of all traumatic brain injuries among kids in America. While most sports injuries are not life-threatening, it’s the parents’ and coaches’ duty to minimize the risk of these accidents.
How Do Sports Injuries Occur?
It is estimated that more than 775,000 children get admitted into hospital emergency rooms for injuries sustained due to intense sports activity. Most of these injuries occur because of collisions, falls, being struck by an object, and over-exertion during informal or unorganized sports activities.
However, injury is not the whole picture; research shows that kids who get injured while playing sports experience issues related to bone growth and soft tissues. This can severely damage the growth mechanisms in a child, both physical and mental.
By knowing the causes of injuries in sports and how to prevent them, you can help make athletics a better experience for your little one.
Children – especially those younger than 8 years old – can get injured for a variety of reasons. They are usually less coordinated at that age, with slower reaction times since they are still developing and growing. Also, children develop at different rates; despite being the same age, two kids can be extremely different in height and weight. When these kids of varying sizes play contact sports together, there is bound to be some bruises. Of course, as kids start to grow older and stronger, the extent and severity of injuries also increase.
The good news is, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all safety sports injuries are preventable.
Safety Precautions to Prevent Sports Injuries
Most injuries can be avoided by following some general safety precautions. These include:
Schedule a Pre-Season Sports Physical
Every child should get a pre-participation physical exam (PPE) or general medical exam before they start playing team sports or organized sports. Exams like these help determine a child’s readiness to play a particular sport and diagnose any health issues that could limit their participation.
It’s also best to consult your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician about which sports and activities are best for your kid. Once you get the doctor’s approval, make sure to meet with the coaches before the first practice. Let the coach know about your kid’s medical history, especially if they have a condition like diabetes, asthma, or pollen allergy, which requires special attention.
Teach Your Child About Sports Safety
Sit down with your child and discuss with them the importance of wearing equipment safety gear and following the sports’ rules of the game. Help them understand that in order to prevent injuries, they have to be open about any discomfort or pain they experience before it turns into a bigger issue.
Another important thing here is parents should always ask their children what type of sport they want to play. Just because you like baseball doesn’t mean your child does too.
At their young age, playing sports should be all about having fun, but knowing how to compete is critical too. Added pressure from parents can push them too hard to perform well, resulting in injuries.
Keep Them Hydrated
Engaging in any kind of physical activity leads to sweating, which means the body loses the water it needs to function well. If your child is playing sports, make sure they always drink plenty of water and don’t wait until they feel thirsty.
In addition to dehydration, there is also a risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke that comes with playing outdoors. Extreme thirst, weakness, headache, and fatigue are all signs of dehydration brought on by heat exhaustion.
Children should drink water 30 minutes before they start playing or practicing and take a water break every 20-25 minutes during the activity. If they are feeling too hot or it’s the peak hours of the sun (around noon), they should take a break.
Make Sure They Warm Up Before the Game
Before every practice and game, your child must follow the warm-up routine as instructed by their coach. These stretching exercises will help release muscle tension, which can prevent overuse injuries. Ideally, 10 minutes of light exercise followed by stretching every major muscle group would be best.
Wear Proper Sports Equipment
It’s extremely important to wear properly-fitted safety equipment while both practicing and playing the actual game. The type of safety gear will depend on which sport your child plays, but it may include shin/elbow/knee pads, mouth guards, helmets, shoes with rubber cleats, ankle braces, etc.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Children can’t be expected to perform well in sports if they are not getting the proper nutrition. A lack of nutrients in the diet can also make children more susceptible to injury. Make sure your kids are eating fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and quality meats instead of highly-processed, sugar-filled junk foods.
A treat every now and then is okay, but about 80% of your child’s diet should be made up of fresh, unprocessed foods that are free of added sugar and preservatives.
Ask About the School or League’s Emergency Plan
Every organization which runs sports practices or games must have an emergency plan in case a child gets hurt. This document must include details like who will enforce safety rules on the field (like making sure the children have the right safety gear), who is responsible for administering first aid and CPR, what steps should be taken during an earthquake or fire, etc.
You should also check out the facility where your child will be playing to ensure it is well-maintained and there are no hazards around.
Visit a VNA Health Center: The Largest Community Healthcare Provider in Suburban Chicago Since 1918
If you have any questions about sports safety or would like to schedule a sports physical or school physical for your child, please get in touch with our dedicated team at VNA Health Care. We have 12 health centers located strategically all over the Chicago suburbs, including Aurora, Bolingbrook, Bensenville, Carol Stream, Elgin, Joliet, Romeoville, and Wheaton. You can call us at (630) 892-4355 for a same-day appointment or book online.