Serious injury is never far from a parent’s mind when she watches her child play sports. Just think of the shocking and dramatic injuries we hear about in the media suffered just by children playing football.
On my son’s 11 and under lacrosse team, we already have one player out for the season because of a concussion. This makes me want to wrap my boy in bubble wrap and forbid him from playing sports. Ever.
According to the National Institute of Arthritis, Muculoskeletal & Skin Diseases, more than 38 million children and adolescents participate in organized sports in the United States each year, and still more participate in informal recreational activities. Of those, the CDC says nearly 1.9 million children under 15 were treated in emergency departments for sports-related injuries.
Having a bubble-wrapped couch potato for a kid would not indicate good parenting on my part. While I have to learn to accept that with everything we do comes a little risk, there are proper precautions I can take that will help prevent my children, and yours, from being injured when they play sports.
Following are 9 tips for sports injury prevention outlined by HealthyChildren.org, a site for parents created by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
Watch Out for Pain 1 of 9If there's pain, stop! Sometimes, injuries come simply from overuse of muscles and joints due to lots of hours practicing and playing. KidsHealth.org says the most common overuse injuries for kids in sports include knee pain, little league elbow, swimmer's shoulder and shin splints.
Drink, Drink, Drink!! 2 of 9HealthyChildren.org says children can avoid heat injury by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise or play. It's also important to decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods. In terms of how much fluid intake kids need, the Stop Sports Injuries campaign recommends, "Hydration should begin before the exercise period. Drinking 16 ounces of water or a sports drink is recommended one hour before exertion. Hydration should continue with 4-8 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes as long as exertion continues."
Play It Safe 3 of 9Parents should ensure that coaches and refs are following strict rules against headfirst sliding in baseball and softball, spearing in football, and body checking in ice hockey, all of which can lead to injury.
Sweat The Technique 4 of 9The better the technique, the less likely an injury will occur, whether it's a golf swing, a soccer header or a softball pitch. Ask your kids' coaches to work with your child on the best and safest way to play. Learning to do a sport the right way can play a big role in preventing injury.
Take A Break 5 of 9Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness, says HealthyChildren.org.
Work Those Muscles 6 of 9Conditioning exercises before games and during practice strengthens muscles used in play. The American College of Sports Medicine says, "Since kids are at risk of repetitive injury and physical overuse, body strengthening and education from [a professional], i.e., how to land from a jump or a rebound or to properly cut on the field can prevent injuries during and after game time. It also gives children a basic level of fitness by using a wide range of exercises to promote flexibility and coordination, decreasing the number of injuries."
Get The Gear 7 of 9Healthychildren.org says, "Players should wear appropriate and properly fit protective equipment such as pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, shin), helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups, and/or eyewear." They add that, "young athletes should not assume that protective gear will protect them from performing more dangerous or risky activities. "
Stretch It Out 8 of 9Stretching exercises before and after games or practice can increase flexibility. According to the NIAMS, your kids' coaches should make warmups and cool downs part of the routine before and after games and practice. "Warmup exercises, such as stretching and light jogging, can help minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury during sports. Warmup exercises make the body's tissues warmer and more flexible. Cool down exercises loosen muscles that have tightened during exercise."
Take Time Off 9 of 9Finally, HealthyChildren.org says kids should have at least 1 day off from sports each week to rest and play and allow their bodies to recover.
Photo credits: All photos from iStockPhoto.
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