Participating in sports is a crucial part of every child’s life. In practice they have fun, they make new friends, they acquire valuable life experience and learn how to grow as people. However, just like any activity, sports can come with various injuries, especially when kids and parents don’t know how to prevent them and treat them. So, here’s a little guide that will help you ensure your child is safe in sports.
Teach them the rules
Every sport has some dangerous moves that should be avoided. For instance, sliding in baseball, body checking in hockey or heavy lifting in wrestling should be prohibited for kids that are too young because they can cause head or spine injury. Otherwise, as long as our child knows the rules of the game, they will have fun and stay safe.
Create a safe environment
Before your kids engage in a sport, you should ensure that the area is clean. Check for any holes, bumps and debris that can potentially hurt your child. If you’re playing in the evening or at night, make sure the field or court is well lit to make the game safer and more effective.
Group them by size
The most common way kids get injured in sports is when they play an opponent who’s much bigger than them. So make sure that players are all the same size and skill level (not necessarily the same age), especially in contact sports. If there’s no way to make such a division, you can try to modify the game to suit the smaller kids and beginners.
Wear the right gear
One of the most important parts of every sport is the right protective gear. No matter the sport, there are always certain injuries that can be prevented with proper equipment. This might include good shoes and uniform, helmets and protective pads. If your child is engaging in a contact sport like wrestling, make sure to provide them with a wrestling mouth guard to keep their teeth and jaw safe. Your best option is a custom-made mouth protector that will fit perfectly and cause minimal discomfort. Also, if your child wears glasses, they should be made of specialized non-shattering glass and equipped with a strap.
Make sure to warm up
Many parents tend to forget the importance of warm-ups for their child’s safety. All athletes, both young and old, should start and finish their practice or game with a good stretch that will keep their muscles flexible and free of injury. But, since kids are still weak, they should practice often and follow a good conditioning program to develop strong muscles that are much harder to injure.
Kids still have weak muscles, so they should take frequent breaks to prevent overuse injuries (usually micro muscle tears and bone fractures). Experts also recommend that every child takes a long break from a specific sport during the year, usually two months, to recover and prevent injuries.
Keep them hydrated
Strenuous sports can take a serious toll on small bodies, so every time your kid plays sports during warm weather, make sure they take regular water breaks every 20 minutes. Staying hydrated before, during and after the game will keep them cool, reduce heart rate and prevent dizziness and muscle cramps. If the outdoor conditions are really extreme (temperature- or humidity-wise) you might want to stop the practice or make it light and fun. Read more about more summer tips for children here.
Recognize the signs of an injury
Knowing how injuries look like is just as important as knowing how to prevent them. For instance, a quick reaction and treatment of an injury can control its severity and prevent permanent damage. So, if your child experiences swelling and severe pain, make sure to seek medical treatment. Never encourage kids to “run it off” or “play through pain”.
Take it easy after an injury
If your kid suffers through an injury (acute or overuse injury), make sure they take their time to completely recover before getting back to the field, court or ring. If the child doesn’t have a full range of motion or still experienced some pain or swelling, they should not go back to practice. It’s best to get a clearance from a health care provider to ensure everything is fine. Kids can be eager to start playing sports again, so they might hide the pain.
If you take all of these preventive steps, your child will stay safe in sports and enjoy every minute of their game. Just know that accidents sometimes just happen and no one can be blamed for them. However, kids are much tougher than they look and one negative experience doesn’t mean they have to give up sports forever!