Participating in sports can be a fun and enriching activity for many kids. They learn cooperation and teamwork, get needed physical activity, and have fun while doing it. Unfortunately, injuries are common in sports, especially as kids get older and the competitive level increases. Some injuries in sports are complete accidents that would be difficult to prevent, aside from not allowing your child to play. There are many injuries that can be prevented, however, and it is the job of kids and parents alike to do everything they can to avoid having to sit on the sidelines.
Get a Pre-participation Physical
This can usually be incorporated into your child’s yearly physical, but it’s important to inform your doctor when your child will start a new sport. Your pediatrician may take more time to gather information and give recommendations to prevent specific injuries seen in that sport. Some of the extra information may include a detailed history of any family heart problems, history of concussions or head injuries, and/or a detailed exam of your child’s muscles and bones.
Use Appropriate Equipment
Each piece of equipment in any sport serves a specific purpose. More often than not, that purpose is to prevent the player from being injured. Protective equipment should always fit properly, otherwise, its effectiveness is reduced dramatically and could potentially lead to injury. From helmets to proper shoes, shoulder pads to protective cups – if a child doesn’t want to wear the proper equipment, they shouldn’t play.
Stretch and Strengthen
Your muscles do more than just give you power to hit the ball far or run fast. They also support every joint in your body and keep things moving in the right direction. Strength training, particularly in competitive sports, helps prevent injuries on the field. This doesn’t mean kids should be powerlifting, but working with your coaches and following a training program is beneficial. Stretching before and after exercise increases the flexibility of joints and muscles. This added flexibility helps prevent common injuries like muscle strains or sprains.
Don’t Play Injured
This becomes a particular concern in older children in very competitive sports. The nature of competition and wanting to win causes kids to want to “play through the pain.” More often than not, this is an incredibly bad idea. One of two things usually occurs: the child worsens their existing injury, or because they are favoring their injury they injure a different part of their body. Professional athletes tempt fate frequently and play injured, likely because the sport is their livelihood. For kids, there is always next season.
Follow an Off-season Conditioning Program
This is for my competitive athletes. I have lost track of how many times I have seen this scenario: high school athlete works extensively during the season with strength training, practices, games. Once the season ends, all physical activity is stopped. Then when next season rolls around, the student-athlete tries to resume previous vigorous physical activity and sustains a stress fracture, sprain, or muscle strain. Most team sports will have some form of recommended off-season conditioning, frequently it will be participating in another sport. Maintaining a baseline level of physical activity through the off-season lessens the risk of injury once one’s primary sport resumes.
This is definitely just a quick overview of general things that can be done to prevent sports injuries. Other things you can discuss with your doctor are proper nutrition, supplements, and specific issues seen with particular sports.
Please join us for a live discussion on sports injuries Wednesday, September 7 at 12:00 CST. A panel of experts – including specialists in sports medicine, emergency medicine and cardiology- will be on hand to answer your questions live.
Also, please refer to the links below for further information on specific injuries.
Pitch counts and little league elbow – childrensmd.org/pitch-counts-important-baseball-softball-player/
Good resource for many sports injuries (sprains, concussions, breaks) – http://www.healthychildren.org/english/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/sports-injuries/