Now that we know how dangerous football concussions can be, many parents are newly nervous about youth sports. If you want to help your kids stay safe, here’s a parents guide to sports injuries in kids.
It may seem surprising, but it’s true: More than 3.5 million children ages 14 and younger get hurt annually playing sports or participating in recreational activities. And while sports injuries aren’t always easy to avoid, it’s important for all parents to be diligent about educating both themselves and their children about the dangers associated with certain sports and how to minimize injury risks. Here’s a quick guide that will explore some of the most common types of sports injuries and how to limit your child’s risk.
Get a Pre-Season Physical
First, it’s important to realize that your child’s risk for certain injuries depends on the sport they’re participating in. But it’s always a good idea to get a preseason physical for your child to ensure that they’re in proper physical shape to play. Many schools require their student athletes to get preseason physicals, but if yours doesn’t, be proactive and make an appointment anyway. This way, if something is wrong or your child has an increased risk for certain injury types, you’ll know before the season starts and can make an appropriate judgment call.
Invest in Proper Gear
While your child’s school is likely to provide all the necessary safety equipment, you should take some time to inspect it and be sure that it’s up to par. For certain contact sports like hockey, you’ll need to make sure your child has a proper mouthguard, since the AAPD notes that between 10% and 39% of dental injuries in children are caused by sports, particularly chipped and broken teeth. Most parents think the main injury risks are associated with sprains or strains, but dental health should be treated as a priority as well. According to an AACD survey, virtually all adults (99.7%) surveyed believe a healthy smile is socially important. The bottom line? When you invest in the right safety gear, you’re investing in your child’s athletic health.
Communicate the Importance of Proper Warmups
Kids are often eager to jump right into the game, whether it’s football, soccer, hockey, or any other team sport. But before they put this kind of physical stress on their muscles, it’s important for them to warm up properly by stretching. Experts typically recommend a combination of static and dynamic stretches: static stretches are stretches where one position is held for a certain amount of time, and dynamic stretches involve movement. Ask your child’s coach or do a quick Google search to find the proper warmup exercises for your child, and make sure to educate them on the importance of preparing their muscles for the increased activity.
Encourage Adequate Resting Time
Though your child may seem to have unlimited energy and want to constantly be on the go, it’s important to make sure they understand the need to rest their muscles after a game. Overuse injuries are some of the most common types of sports injuries, and taking the time needed to regain strength can help prevent such injuries.
“Athletes of all ages need to rest between practices, games and events. A lack of sleep and muscle fatigue predispose an athlete to injury…In fact, the most common injuries seen in young athletes are overuse injuries — too many sports and not enough rest. Along these same lines, parents should also plan an offseason for their athlete, giving him or her adequate time to recuperate before the next season,” says Johns Hopkins Medicine.
According to a 2017 Kaufman Hall survey, one-quarter of U.S. hospitals and health systems say they hope to decrease costs over the next five years, and avoiding sports injuries means avoiding hefty medical bills and gaining the peace of mind that comes with raising a healthy and athletic child. Staying up-to-date on these prevention tips can help you communicate consistently with your child and encourage them to take the proper precautions on and off the field. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional for any specific or ongoing concerns with your child’s health.