Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries in Kids

Jeremy Thurman on September 24, 2013

Kids and sports. For some, it’s their very lifeblood – but, having a child athlete can be one of the major triumphs of parenting, or it could be a huge cause for worry. And, rightly so. An article published recently in USA Today indicates that 1.35 million children a year sustain serious sports injuries. The vast majority are strains or sprains (about 451,480 diagnosed in ERs per year), followed by fractures and contusions or abrasions.

This is followed by concussions (163,670 per year), lacerations and dislocations. Of course, kids will be kids and they will suffer bumps and bruises whether they play competitive sports or not. But, there are kids arriving in emergency rooms for sports injuries that could be prevented. Also, bear in mind that these statistics are only for kids who are treated in emergency rooms; those who go to urgent care, their regular doctor, or who don’t seek treatment are not counted. Thus, actual numbers of injuries is likely significantly higher.

Concussions are most troubling. For one thing, nearly half of the kids seen in ERs for sports-related concussions in 2012 were between 12 and 15 years old. This is not good news; younger athletes take longer to heal from a concussion than older kids because their bodies are still growing. Also, multiple concussions later on can pose serious risks. Also, girls are statistically more likely to suffer a concussion than boys. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why that is, but they’re trying to figure out whether it’s attributable to biomechanics, genetics or differences in play. The highest concussion rates for both boys and girls were attributed to football, wrestling and cheerleading, respectively.

There are ways to prevent these injuries. One is to encourage your child to avoid overuse. Overuse injuries to tendons, bones and joints can be caused by performing the movements repetitively and too often, without allowing time to heal in between. One way to try to avoid this is to only allow your child to practice her sport for as many hours a week as she is old. For example, an 11-year-old who plays soccer should only engage in that activity for 11 or fewer hours per week.

Tips for sports safety:

  • Prior to participating in a sport, have your child get a physical from her health care provider to ensure that there are no conditions that would place her at risk for injury.
  • Stretch and warm up before every game or practice. This can release muscle tension and help to prevent tears or sprains. Kids should begin each practice with 10 minutes of light jogging and then stretch each major muscle group for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water before, during and after play.
  • Wear appropriate gear. Depending on the sport, your child could need a helmet, shin guards, mouth guards, cleats or other apparatus. Be sure that it fits properly.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of a concussion. If there is any question as to whether a player could have a concussion, she should sit out the rest of the game or practice and a health care provider should be consulted.
  • Particular caution should be exercised if a player has had a previous concussion. Multiple concussions can cause serious problems later.
  • Rest: Always have players rest during practices and games in order to prevent overuse injuries. Let them know that it’s okay and encouraged to tell a parent or coach if they have any pain or aren’t feeling well during or before practice or a game.
  • Off-season is important. If your child wants to play sports year-round, but she switches sports from one season to the next, that’s okay. She needs a minimum of 10 weeks off from a particular sport when the season concludes. As well, kids should have a minimum of one to two days off per week from each sport.

Sports can be great for kids; they can teach discipline, hard work, ethics and teamwork. Of course, it goes without saying that participating on a team can also allow kids to make great friends and can be great fun! Being aware of sports injuries that are common to your child’s particular sport is very helpful, though, in preventing them. As a parent, it’s also important to have ongoing dialogue with your child and with the coach to be sure that everyone is being as careful as possible, while still having fun.

Soccer - Army Youth Sports and Fitness - by USAG-Humphreys, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  USAG-Humphreys

SafeKids Worldwide
USA Today

Jeremy Thurman

Jeremy Thurman is an attorney at McIntyre Law who focuses primarily on semi-truck accident and catastrophic injury cases. He is known as a meticulous attorney whose work ethic and small town values translate into excellent results for his clients. Read more about Jeremy Thurman.

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