Children should be physically active, and sports are a great way to make sure kids get their exercise, stay healthy, do well in school, and even have a social outlet. An unfortunate reality, however, is that with all the benefits of exercise comes the risk of injury, particularly in contact sports. Millions of children visit the emergency department every year as a result of sports-related injuries. Common injuries are sprains, strains, fractures, lacerations, and concussions. Children are at greater risk than adults for injuries, because they are still growing and developing. Not all injuries can be preventable, of course, because accidents happen; but with a little preparation, you can help keep your child athlete safe.
These rules are basic guidelines for preventing injury among children who play contact sports:
- Wear protective gear: Many injuries are preventable with the right safety gear. Teach your children how to use it and make sure they wear their gear every time they are out on the field, court, or ring. Different sports have different safety gear, such as a helmet that meets the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, or elbow/knee pads. Other sports may require a helmet, mouth guard, and proper footwear.
- Avoid overplaying: Taking breaks is important to avoid overuse injuries, such as muscle tears, sprains, or fractures. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a total of 3 months off from any given sport every year to prevent injury, in one-month increments. This allows young athletes to recover both physically and psychologically before resuming play. Your child can still remain active in other sports or physical activities during their time off.
- Group kids by size: When kids play contact sports, it’s important they do not get on the field with an opponent twice their size. Kids should be placed on teams according to their size and skill level rather than their age. If your child’s coach cannot accommodate that request, ask for the game to be modified for beginners or smaller players.
- Warm up and tone up: The muscles and tendons stay flexible from a proper warm up. Kids should practice and follow their conditioning program, as stronger muscles are less likely to be injured. Make sure your young athlete follows their coach’s guidelines for strength and conditioning.
- Recognize symptoms of injuries: An injury can become more severe or cause permanent damage without prompt treatment. Some of the symptoms of sports injuries include swelling, pain, being unable to put weight on the legs, and more. Don’t encourage children to play through their pain, as this will only make it worse.
- Let any injuries heal before returning to play: Children who suffer injuries during contact sports should be completely symptom-free by the time they resume play. This means they should have full range of motion, no pain, and no swelling in the affected area. Make sure your child’s doctor clears them before they begin playing again.
Contact sports involve risk, not to the mention pressure to perform well. However, with they also help children build character, as well as communication and problem solving skills that last a lifetime. Sports can also help children relieve stress and develop healthy habits. It’s important to make sure they are protected, though, so make sure you collaborate with your child’s coach to ensure their safety.
Have a child athlete who needs physical therapy? Contact ProFysio to learn more. Reach out at at (732) 812-5200 or schedule a free consultation online.