So, the time has come that your child has decided to jump headfirst into a sport that they love. This can be quite anxiety-provoking for a parent, especially with sports like football or gymnastics. Many parents ask me how many kids come into my office with sports injuries, and my response is always around the ways to prevent injuries.
Truthfully, severe sports injuries aren’t quite as common as you’d think in little league sports. Stanford’s Children Health reported that an estimated 30 million teens and kids play sports every year, and 3.5 million experience injuries, which are primarily sprains and strains.
Regardless, it’s a good idea to take preventative measures when your kids are getting ready for practice and games. Here are my top tips for helping your kids avoid sports injuries as I did with my own sons.
1. Always wear protective gear.
It should go without saying, but helmets, eye protection, mouth guards, and shin guards are necessary in all sports. Most coaches and sports organizations require this, so more of the danger comes from when kids are playing with their friends unattended. It’s important to communicate with your children that protective gear is there to make sure they don’t get hurt. It may not always look “cool” to wear, but a cast doesn’t look cool either - and it certainly doesn’t feel good! In my experience, kids do best with assessing new information if they’re told why they’re being asked to do something. So, tell them about common injuries associated with not wearing their protective gear. This isn’t to scare them, but rather to help them understand why it’s so important.
2. Don’t let them play if something hurts.
Because sprains and strains are quite common, it’s important to look out for signs that your child is in some type of minor pain. They may not complain about it, but notice if they do, or if they’re limping. Continuing to play sports with the beginning of a minor injury can lead to a more major injury, because even a small strain can put off the equilibrium of the body.
3. Prioritize playing nice over playing to win.
Finally, remind them that sports are about having fun and being active, not (necessarily) about winning. Many kids in contact sports like football, baseball, and basketball may have the tendency to play rough, especially during a major game. But, playing too rough is a recipe for an injury. Again, many schools and organizations have rules against rough-housing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
In addition to these three main tips, make sure your kids are drinking plenty of water and taking time to warm up before playing. Sports injuries shouldn’t be too much of a concern, but it’s always best to have these conversations ahead of time.