No one likes sustaining a sports injury. But worse yet, especially for a parent, is when a child gets injured. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to prevent this sometimes heart-dropping experience. And with April being Youth Sports Safety Month, now is a great time to look at how to prevent sports injury in our youth.
First, parents must realize that rarely do kids think they will get injured. If anything, our children believe they are invincible and beyond any serious injury. This realization makes the point that youth safety must start with parents and coaches. Kids are concerned about having fun while playing sports. Our job is to make sure they learn how to be safe doing it.
The following 10 suggestions will help you in your efforts to promote Youth Sports Safety.
- Think prevention. Proper equipment, hydration and conditioning team up to prevent the majority of sports injuries.
- Go organized. Utilize the organized sports programs in your area. They usually have coaches who are educated in and promote the importance of sports safety.
- Protect eyes. Often a forgotten piece of equipment, protective sports eyewear can not only prevent serious injury from impact, it can also protect eyes from sunburn (Yes, your eyes can get sunburn).
- Get evaluated. If an injury does take place, especially one involving the head and neck, see a physician as soon as possible, making sure to get the okay before returning to sports activities.
- Learn the rules. Knowing the rules of a specific sport can go a long way to reducing and eliminating injury. The rules are in place not only to bring structure to sports, but safety as well.
- Avoid overuse. Many sports now have year-round training programs. For this reason overuse injuries can become a big problem and one that often does not show up until adulthood. Be sure children cross train and get variety in their exercise.
- Get a good fit. Safety equipment can actually be harmful if it doesn’t fit properly. While hand-me-downs may save money in expensive sports gear, that savings may disappear into expensive health care for an injury if the gear does not fit properly. Choosing children’s safety glasses that are made to fit smaller faces is one example.
- Consider the elements. Heat can cause dehydration more quickly. Sunburn can sideline. Lightning can cause tragedy. Know the expected weather conditions, and be prepared with appropriate protection and alternate plans.
- Insist on rest. Make sure kids get regular time off to let their bodies rest and recuperate. Also make sure they get adequate sleep regularly. Depending on their age and activity level, kids need anywhere from 8-12 hours a sleep every night.
- Remember RICE. When an injury does take place, remember Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation as the first line of defense for treating most sports injuries.
- Sports-related injury accounts for 41% of musculoskeletal injuries in kids age 5-21 years.
- Most sports injuries occur in 13 year olds.
- Sprains, strains, overuse injuries and fractures are the most common youth sports injuries.
- Basketball, track, baseball, gymnastics, and swimming are the most common sports seeing overuse injuries.
- 300,000 brain injuries per year are sports related.
- 20% of football players sustain traumatic brain injuries.
- 8% of spinal cord injuries are sports injuries.
- Children are especially vulnerable to extremes of temperature, which has led to death from heat stroke.
In addition to the above tips, a variety of excellent resources exist online for preventing youth sports injuries. Those resources include Stop Sports Injuries and the Injury Free Coalition for Kids. Use these and the many other resources available to keep our kids healthy and strong and to help them enjoy playing sports for a lifetime.