Make Sports Safer for Kids

Must-know info

Prevention (USA) - - CONTENTS - BY JENNA BIRCH

Alot of kids are play­ing on teams these days: over 28 mil­lion, in fact, ac­cord­ing to the Sports & Fit­ness In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion. Mean­while, the CDC says 2.6 mil­lion are treated in the ER ev­ery year for sports in­juries. These tips can help keep your child healthy.

1 Pro­tect the head

Knocks to the nog­gin can be dan­ger­ous and put play­ers at risk of con­cus­sion. In ad­di­tion to wear­ing the des­ig­nated head­gear for their sport, kids should learn the ap­pro­pri­ate tech­niques for tack­ling in foot­ball, body check­ing in hockey, and head­ing the ball in soc­cer, says In­grid Ich­esco, M.D., a pe­di­atric sports medicine spe­cial­ist at Univer­sity of Michi­gan C.S. Mott Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal. If a child does ex­pe­ri­ence a hit to the head, “be aware of any headache, dizzi­ness, con­fu­sion, or emo­tional is­sues,” she says. “The num­ber one thing is if they’re not act­ing like them­selves, per­haps more ir­ri­ta­ble, they need to be eval­u­ated by a trainer or doc­tor.” When in doubt, sit it out.

2 Be sen­si­tive to pain

Kids may feel pres­sure to get back out on the field af­ter tweak­ing a mus­cle, but that doesn’t mean they should. “‘No pain, no gain’ is re­ally about mus­cle sore­ness dur­ing en­durance train­ing,” says Joseph E. Her­rera, D.O., a pro­fes­sor in the De­part­ment of Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Hu­man Per­for­mance at Mount Si­nai Health Sys­tem. “If a child is feel­ing true mus­cu­loskele­tal pain, like el­bow, knee, or back pain that per­sists for days, he or she needs to be checked out by a doc­tor.” Most kids are re­silient and will heal, but the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics has a list of ques­tions to re­view with your child’s pe­di­a­tri­cian be­fore she re­turns to play; find a link to it at preven­tion.com/sportsin­juries.

3 Don’t spe­cial­ize

To reach an elite level and earn schol­ar­ships, kids are some­times pushed to fo­cus on one sport and play it year­round. How­ever, re­search shows that spe­cial­iza­tion in­creases psy­cho­log­i­cal stress, burnout, and in­juries in young ath­letes. For in­stance, ig­nor­ing pitch counts in base­ball or soft­ball can lead to “Lit­tle Lea­guer’s el­bow,” while quar­ter­backs and vol­ley­ball play­ers who “ex­tend” for throw­ing and hit­ting may see shoul­der in­juries. “Play­ing a va­ri­ety of sports works many mus­cle groups, pre­vent­ing in­jury as kids’ bod­ies grow,” says Dr. Her­rera.

Limit play time

Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the psy­cho­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal power of tak­ing time off—one to two days per week, and two to three months per year in a given sport, ad­vises Dr. Ich­esco. “It can be dif­fi­cult to fol­low these rec­om­men­da­tions due to pres­sure from coaches, so­ci­ety, and so forth,” she says. “But par­ents should feel em­pow­ered to set lim­its with their chil­dren’s sports if needed and en­cour­age them to try new things. In gen­eral, re­mem­ber that sports should be fun and our goal is to try to en­cour­age life­long phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and a healthy life­style.”

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