Children should be active as it is good for the mind and body. Playing sports is a great way to stay in shape, to develop skills, to bond with others, and to have fun. More children than ever are involved in a wide variety of types of sports. However, this has also resulted in more children experiencing sports related injuries than in the past. Promoting a safe environment and safe practices for all children to engage in is encouraged.
Risks of Sports
Pointing out the risks to children through sports isn’t to scare parents. In fact, the benefits of being part of such activities are far greater than the risks relating to injuries. The more contact the athlete will have with others during the sport, the higher their risk becomes of a potential injury. However, studies show most of these types of injuries can be prevented.
This includes sprains and strains as well as stress fractures. When too much stress is placed on muscle, bone, joints, or tendons, such injuries are the result. Children should have their bones evaluated by a doctor and any tender areas carefully evaluated. If there is any pain, limited range of motion, or swelling, immediate medical attention should be sought.
Reduce the Risks
Parents need to help children to reduce the risk of sports related injuries. There are several ways in which this can be done including:
- Time out – At least one but preferably two days per week should be off limits for taking part in the sports. This gives the body time to rest and to recover so it can be stronger when the activities resume. Coaches need to give children a break during practice. During games, the players should be rotated in and out.
- Equipment and gear – The right equipment and safety gear is important for all sports. They should be worn both during practices and games. They should fit snuggly but not too tight. Find out what is recommended for a given sport such as knee pads, shoulder pads, or a helmet. Make sure your child understands the importance of such items and how to secure them in place. Many contact sports also require a mouthpiece. It is best to get one that is custom molded to fit your child’s mouth and teeth.
- Technique – While skills and level of coordination will vary among children, they should learn the right techniques for the sport. Understanding the fundamentals can prevent them from getting hurt. It can also prevent them from accidentally hurting someone else. Safety should always be a #1 priority for any sports.
- Report – Children shouldn’t be encouraged by parents or coaches to play through the pain or ignore the signals they get from the body that something isn’t right. Instead, they should be encouraged to report pain, swelling, and tenderness. Doing so can help to prevent the injury from getting worse.
- Hydration – It is important to stay well hydrated, even if it isn’t hot outside. Drinking fluids before, during, and after engaging in any physical activity can help the body to be flexible and to recover. Care needs to be taken to prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration when it is hot outside.
- Stretching – Children should always stretch before and after they take part in any sports related activity. This helps to reduce the risk of injuries as the muscles are warmed up and limber.
- Trampoline use – Since a high number of sports related injuries for children result from the use of a trampoline, adult supervision is strongly advised. Only one child should jump at a time as this could reduce the risk of an injury by 75%.
Mental Well Being
It isn’t just the body that can be injured due to sports. Children need to be able to learn and grow but also have a great time. There shouldn’t be pressure on them to be the best and to always win. They should be encouraged to do their best and praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome. They should be encouraged to play fair and to have respect for all other athletes. The goal should be to help them enjoy the sport and to continue to keep their bodies strong and healthy.