Keeping Sports Safe Is a Win-Win

As a doting parent, you want to teach your kids to play sports safely to ensure that they exercise and enjoy wholesome fun. But how, exactly, do you keep kids safe – or at least minimize risks? 

Putting Youth Sports Injuries in Context 

  • Musculoskeletal injuries (e.g. sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations and soft tissue injuries) can afflict kids of any age, playing almost any sport or game;
  • Concussions and head injuries don’t just occur in the NFL. Peewee football and youth league soccer, lacrosse and hockey cause thousands of brain injuries a year. Sobering fact: 90% of sports head injuries happen without the loss of consciousness.
  • 46.5 million kids play sports every year; in 2012, nearly 800,000 kids (ages 19 and under) had to go to the ER for basketball or football injuries alone.
  • Game time is not the most dangerous time. 62% of youth injuries happen in practice. 

Protecting Our Youth Athletes – What Are Best Practices? 

The National Institutes of Health offers commonsense tips on injury prevention. Kids should:

  • Warm up and stretch before game time;
  • Stay hydrated;
  • Rest when fatigued. 

Slow, safe strength training might also help. The Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness recently found that “in addition to the obvious goal of getting stronger, strength training programs may be undertaken to improve sports performance, rehabilitate injuries, prevent injuries, and/or enhance long term health.”

A proper diet can also reduce inflammation and help kids recover between bursts of athletic activity. Try to limit your kids’ consumption of trans fats, high-glycemic refined carbohydrates and sugars; and make sure they get enough protein and healthy fats, such as Omega 3 fatty acids. 

Adequate safety gear and training are also key. Football helmets don’t necessarily prevent concussions and spinal damage, but it’s better to wear a helmet than not to wear one. Likewise, youth athletes should follow the rules and be supervised by alert coaches. 

If Your Child Gets Hurt Playing a Sport 

Kids don’t always know that they’ve been injured. They can also underestimate the severity of an injury. During sports accidents, car crashes, and other traumatic events, the body releases neurochemicals called endorphins. These chemical signals can mask pain. When in doubt, seek emergency care, especially for head injuries, which can predispose victims to be at risk for a scary, potentially life-threatening kind of re-injury, known as the second impact syndrome. 

Lastly, educate yourself and model good behavior. Safety is just a series of habits that you develop. Cultivate smart, easy to remember safety habits, and teach them to your kids. 

Click here to download a guide to sports concussions from the National Federation of State High School Associations. 

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