Youth Sports Safety: Your Top 6 Concerns
Each year, more than 3.5 million children, ages 14 and under get hurt playing sports or engaging in recreational activities.
If your child has not yet been injured playing sports, the odds are pretty strong that sooner or later, he or she will.
As a parent, it is your job to do your homework and to be aware of the top youth sports safety concerns. Don’t allow yourself to get into a situation where you wished you would have known more. Of course, there is no way you can possibly know about every injury scenario your child could face, but make it your job to be familiar with these top safety concerns, for your own peace of mind and for the health of your child.
An overuse injury is any type of muscle or joint injury, due to repetitive stress without allowing time for the body to heal. For example: tendinitis, stress fracture, or shin splints.
Because growing bones are less resilient to stress, children and teens have a higher risk for overuse injuries. Sometimes, young athletes don’t know that certain symptoms are signs of overuse (for example, worsening shoulder pain in swimmers or pitchers); they just think they are sore because they had a tough practice. Don’t ignore consistent pain or soreness.
Healthychildren.org suggests that athletes should not specialize in one sport before puberty, but try a variety of sports. Participation in a particular sport should be limited to 5 days per week, and athletes should sign up for one team and one sport per season. They also suggest that increases in weekly training time, mileage, or repetitions should be no more than 10% per week.
With the recent release of the movie Concussion, the discussion and awareness surrounding head injuries has skyrocketed. It is your job to educate yourself on the risks, symptoms, treatments and protection.
Momsteam, a strong advocate for concussion safety claims there are six pillars to concussion risk management: education, protection (minimizing the risk), early detection and removal from play, conservative treatment, cautious return to play and retirement when it becomes necessary.
Don’t assume that people are being alarmists. The threat is real and as sports parents, you must not ignore it.
Although heat illnesses are among the most dangerous sports injuries, they are also the most preventable.
When an athlete exercises, the body’s temperature raises and the body sweats to cool itself down. This is when body fluids, as well as critical electrolytes, are lost. If the body isn’t replenished with fluids and electrolytes, dehydration can occur, which increases the risk of a heat illness such as heat stroke.
- Hot, dry weather can be dangerous. Sweat evaporates quickly in those conditions, so your child won’t feel sweaty, and you or your child may not be aware of rhow much water he or she has lost.
- High humidity lessens the effectiveness of sweating to cool the body, resulting in a build-up of body heat.
Be aware of the signs of heat illness:
- Dark colored urine
- Dry mouth
If heat illness progresses, more serious symptoms may occur: difficulty breathing, increased body temps, muscle cramps, tingling limbs–and even death.
Thorough Pre-season Checkups
Don’t take this required prerequisite lightly. It is not just another thing to check off your sports parenting to-do list. The goal of your child’s medical exam is to:
- Determine that your child is in general good health.
- Assess your child’s present fitness level.
- Detect conditions that make your child susceptible to new injuries.
- Evaluate your child’s existing injuries.
- Assess the size and developmental progress of your child
- Detect congenital anomalies that increase your child’s risk of injury.
- Detect poor preparticipation conditioning that may put the athlete at increased risk.
Don’t let the exam end until all of that criteria has been met.
Warming Up and Stretching
The main benefit to warming up is injury prevention because the blood will be pumping to an area, lowering the chance of a muscle pull or joint injury. Hopefully your child’s team warms up together, but if they do not or if your child is playing outside of practice or a game, be sure they understand the importance of warming up and research with them the best ways to warm up.
Teach your kids the importance of stretching after play; this boosts flexibility and may lower the risk of injury.
Lack of Medical Information
This is an issue that needs to be addressed from both sides–parents and coaches. Parents need to give coaches accurate medical information that affects their child’s ability to play sports, no matter how minor the parent feels it is.
Coaches need to keep medical information on hand, along with emergency contacts.To make this information quickly and easily available for each even, I’d suggest trying an app such as SPRTID. It is a free app that allows coaches instant access to a child’s health information.
Medical information should also be present in the form of someone who knows first aid and CPR (coaches should be trained). I attended too many of my kids’ games where there was not a medical person in sight. They were there for high school games, but not for middle school or elementary events. In my opinion this is risky.
As a parent, it’s your job to be informed. Know the risks and think about safety concerns. Armed with this knowledge, you can know that you’ve done your best to give your child a positive and safe youth sports experience.