Make Sports Safer for Kids
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.”