Playing sports can teach kids to stretch their limits and learn sportsmanship and discipline. But any sport can lead to injury. Parents and coaches can make a big difference in helping kids play sports safely.
Preventing Sports Injuries
To help protect your kids from sports injuries, follow these guidelines:
Use Proper Equipment
It's important for kids to use proper equipment and safety gear that’s the right size and fits well. For example, they should wear helmets for baseball, softball, bike riding, and hockey. They also should wear helmets while they're inline skating or riding scooters and skateboards.
Ask your child's coach about the appropriate helmets, shoes, mouthguards, athletic cups and supporters, and padding. For racquet sports, field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, softball, and baseball, ask about any protective eyewear, like shatterproof glasses.
Protective equipment should be approved by the organizations that oversee the sports. Hockey masks, for example, should be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Bicycle helmets should have a safety certification sticker from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
All equipment should be well cared for so it stays effective over time.
Play on Safe Surfaces
Check that playing fields are not full of holes and ruts that might cause kids to fall or trip. Kids doing high-impact sports, like basketball and running, should do them on surfaces like tracks and wooden basketball courts, which can be more forgiving than surfaces like concrete.
Have Adult Supervision
Any team sport or activity that kids participate in should be supervised by qualified adults. Choose leagues and teams that have the same commitment to safety and injury prevention that you do.
The team coach should have training in first aid and CPR, and the coach's philosophy should promote players' well-being. A coach with a win-at-all-costs attitude may encourage kids to play through injury and may not foster good sportsmanship. Be sure that the coach enforces playing rules and requires the use of safety equipment at all times.
Work with the coach to make sure your kids play sports that match their skill level, size, and physical and emotional maturity.
Before starting a new sport, kids should know the general rules of the game and how to stay safe. They should stretch and warm up before practices and before games. This will help them have fun and lower the chances of an injury. They also should come to practice with plenty to drink.
Common Types of Sports Injuries
Some common injuries in kids and teens are:
Acute injuries where kids are hit by something (like a ball), fall, or run into another player. These can be minor (like a scratch or bruise) or more serious (like an eye injury or broken bone).
Overuse injuries (also called repetitive stress injuries) that happen from doing the same action over and over. They can cause problems with bone growth. Overuse injuries often happen in the feet, knees, elbows, and shoulders.
Reinjuries that happen when an athlete returns to the sport before an earlier injury fully healed.
Many of these injuries can be prevented by using the proper sports equipment, making sure kids are playing a sport that is a good fit for them, following doctor’s instructions on when to go back to sports after an injury, and not overdoing a training routine.
How Can Parents Help?
By staying involved in your kids’ sports activities, you can help lower their risk of injury. When kids stay injury-free, it helps them (and parents!) enjoy sports even more.