What you can do to lower your children’s risk of sports injuries

August 22, 2023 in Family Caregiving
sports injuries

Every year, more than 45 million children and adolescents in the U.S. play organized sports. The good news is that playing a sport can have positive effects on your child or teen’s physical health and self-esteem and can help them build skills like collaboration, leadership, and perseverance. The less positive news is that sports injuries that are serious enough that the child has to miss practice affect one in three children who play team sports.

The most common types of sports injuries in children and teens include:

  • Sprains and strains: Sprains are injuries to the ligaments, while strains affect the muscles and tendons.
  • Repetitive motion injuries: These types of injuries include stress fractures, tendinitis, shin splints, Osgood-Schlatter disease or jumper’s knee, and tennis elbow.
  • Growth plate injuries: Growth plates are areas of bone tissue where growth and elongation occur as a child gets older and develops. Growth plate injuries are fractures caused by a blow, fall, or overuse.
  • Heat-related injuries: Playing in the heat and humidity can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Symptoms to watch out for include nausea, dizziness, headache, fast pulse, high body temperature, and confusion.
  • Concussions: Young athletes are at risk of concussions in most any sport not just contact sports. Common symptoms of a concussion include headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and balance problems, double or blurry vision, light and noise sensitivity, fatigue, and attention and memory problems. If your child hits his or her head, it’s wise to have a doctor evaluate the child for a concussion.

Tips to help prevent sports injuries

There are several things you can do to help reduce your child or teen’s risk of sports injuries.

  • See your doctor first. Before your child starts a sport or before the start of a new season, make an appointment with his or her doctor to make sure there are no health issues that might make playing that sport unsafe for the child or increase the risk of injury.
  • Play more than one sport. By playing a variety of sports, you can lower the likelihood that your child will experience an overuse or repetitive motion injury.
  • Choose sports that are appropriate for your child. Encourage your child to play sports that are appropriate for their age, development, and physical abilities. Not only will this make playing a sport safer, it can help make it less likely that your child will become frustrated and quit because the sport isn’t a good fit for her or him.
  • Don’t play every day. Make sure children have at least one day a week off from practice and playing so their bodies have time to recover.
  • Use the right equipment and make sure it fits properly. Any protective pads, helmets, gloves, eye protection, mouth guards, footwear, face guards, and cups should be worn whenever your child is practicing or playing. It’s also important that their gear fits correctly.
  • Don’t skip warmups and cool downs. These exercises can reduce the risk of muscle and tendon injuries. If your child plays rec or travel sports, consider a pre-season conditioning program to help them get stronger, more flexible, and improve techniques.
  • Choose programs with knowledgeable, experienced coaches and trainers committed to injury prevention. Before signing up for an activity, talk with the coach or trainer about their approach to youth sports and what steps they take to prevent injuries.
  • Make hydration a priority. Make sure your child has a water bottle for every practice and game. Kids can become dehydrated through sweating even when it’s not hot outside. Check that the coach includes regular water breaks every 20 minutes. Your children should also drink additional fluids after practice or a game.

If your child does get injured, a health advisor or health navigator can help you connect with physicians who are experienced treating children and teens with sports injuries.

Topics: ,