Of the 30 million American youth athletes that participate in extracurricular sports, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimates that some 3.5 million kids ages 14 and under annually seek medical attention due to some sort of sports injury. There’s always a risk of injury when it comes to any sort of physical activity – that’s just a fact of playing sports – but the good news is that there’s a lot that parents can do to ensure their children stay as safe as possible. With a new school year fast arriving and kids rejoining their various fall sports teams to prepare for the upcoming season, now is as good of a time as ever to review some of these safety strategies and tips:
Wear properly fitting equipment
Yes, it’s important that young athletes wear the right protective equipment for the sport they’re playing. But it’s also important that they’re wearing equipment that is correctly sized for them.
In football, for instance, the helmet is key to reducing the risk of both concussions and facial injuries. But if your child is wearing a helmet that’s too large, they’re up to 20% more vulnerable to such injuries. If you’re unsure in any way if a helmet, shoe, shin pad or other piece of equipment properly fits your child, see an associate at a sporting goods store or discuss it with your child’s coach.
Avoid overdoing it
Overuse injuries are characterized by repetitive bodily motion, which often exists when a young athlete specializes in just one sport. Let kids be kids and play multiple sports. Not only does it give your child a chance to experience different sports, but playing different sports also work out different parts of the body to minimize the risk of an overuse injury. On a similar note, you should always make sure that your child has downtime from any sport they’re playing to allow the body to adequately recover from the activity.
Treat injuries immediately
If your child is experiencing any sort of pain or discomfort, don’t let them play and immediately work to treat the condition. It can be almost natural for kids to want to play through pain, but this isn’t good for the body. Playing through any degree of pain simply means that the source of the pain isn’t being addressed in the manner it should be, which can potentially make things worse in the long run.
Know the common injuries (and their signs and symptoms)
Concussions get the most attention when it comes to youth sports injuries because they happen to be among the most serious of them. But the most common injuries among youth athletes are sprains, bruises, fractures, dislocations and knee issues. Be sure that you familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of each injury, from the serious (concussions) to the more minor in nature (sprains). Also know when to seek medical attention versus whether to a particular condition just needs rest and time to heal.
Schedule a physical
Arguably the best way to prevent sports injuries is to ensure that your child is fit to participate in organized sports in the first place. That’s where the importance of the physical exam comes in. Though most school districts require a physical prior to any sort of sport activity, many leagues independent of the schools do not. Don’t assume that your child is healthy enough for sports activity – that’s what a professional is for. Contact an Ogden Clinic pediatrician, Sports Medicine specialist, or family care provider to schedule your child’s physical today.