How can sports injuries be prevented in my child?

To prevent sports-related injuries in your child, you can take these measures:

  • Ensure children get physicals before they begin practicing or playing sports. It’s important to know if there are any underlying health conditions that may interfere with the level of activity a child can achieve.
  • As with any physical activity, participants should drink at least 12 ounces of water 30 minutes before the activity begins. Continue to hydrate throughout, as well as 20 minutes following the activity.
  • Require at least a 10-minute warm up before any strenuous physical activity to raise the heart rate gradually—not suddenly—and increase blood flow to the muscles.
  • Athletes should stretch both before and after the activity. They should hold each stretch for 10 to 15 seconds for maximum effectiveness. Make sure they stretch their entire bodies—stretching the legs will only help warm up the lower body.
  • If athletes complain of exhaustion or pain, listen to them and do not force them to play through the pain. Adults are taught to listen to their bodies and know their limits—there is no exception for children.
  • Be sure someone on the coaching or training staff is certified in CPR and first aid.
  • Kids of the same age can differ in size, maturity and strength. Take extra caution when children are competing with kids who are more physically advanced, and avoid that situation if possible.
  • For younger athletes, make sure practices are suited to the sport they play. It’s critical to ensure they are receiving the proper conditioning that will allow their bodies to adapt so they can continue playing for years to come.
  • Ensure athletes are wearing and using the appropriate safety equipment, even during practice. Be sure to adjust the equipment to fit the child. If something does not fit properly, it will be less likely to prevent injury.

Keep in mind that contact sports have higher rates of injury, but individual sports injuries tend to be more severe.

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Proper supervision is essential in preventing sports injuries in children. It’s especially important in young kids who are still developing and learning sports for the first time. This is especially important in contact sports where the kids have a lot of enthusiasm to play and they're getting stronger. That combination can result in other children getting injured and even being pushed down and getting fractures.

You can help your children prevent sports injuries by having them wear protective gear. When your children are riding their bikes, they must wear helmets, which lower the risk of concussions and serious head injuries. If they're riding scooters or bikes, wearing some protective gear can help.

Make sure that your children stretch appropriately when playing a sport. They should also cross train so that they’re using multiple muscles and not going from zero to a thousand miles an hour trying to do a sport after having not done anything in four to six months. Some kids do this, especially after the winter. They get out, they try to do something too quickly, and they get an injury, whether that's a broken bone or a muscle strain. Trying to have some level of baseline activity where they're staying active is best.

There are some activities that are higher risk than others, like playing football or being the flyer in competitive cheer. Also, children should avoid some of the really high-risk activities like motocross, dirt bikes and rodeo. That way, the chances of your kids having broken bones aren't zero, but they’re definitely lower.

Like college and professional athletes, kids should be strong, flexible and able to handle all the demands of the sport that they’re playing. It’s important that kids are eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and active and playing by the rules. It’s also imperative that kids wear the correct protective gear, like helmets and protective cups. Bottom line: Kids are kids and they like to push the limits of what they can get away with. Parental involvement and supervision of what their children are actually doing are keys to keeping kids safe on and off the playing field.

The summer is fast approaching and sports players will soon fill the courts, fields, greens and trails looking to get back in shape and practice their game. However, this also means there are plenty of opportunities for cuts and bruises, ankle sprains, muscle strains, and knee injuries, to name a few.

Drs. Levine and Ranawat give a few simple tips for preventing sports injuries:

  • Start slow. You are probably not in the same condition that you were last summer; new activities require muscles and joints to respond in new ways. This may result in minor soreness that could develop into something more serious if you push yourself too hard.
  • Warm up. Get your blood pumping to those under-used muscles and joints before you begin, and do some gentle stretching once you are done. This will help you retain and improve flexibility.
  • Take breaks. Every so often it is recommended that you rest the body parts that are working hard and are susceptible to injury—even tennis pros rest between sets.
  • Listen to your body. Don't ignore the little aches and pains you feel in your joints and muscles because they may help you prevent serious injuries.
Dr. Christopher C. Giza, MD

There are a few things you can do right now to help prevent sports injuries in your child and to help your child stay safe when playing sports . First, educate yourself, your coaches and your trainers to recognize a concussion and remove the athlete from play and make him safe until diagnosed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information available for both parents, athletes and coaches that's important. Make sure the coaches and the staff are educated. Is there a concussion protocol at your school or with your team? Do they have a plan in place if a concussion occurs so that the athlete will be identified and will be sat out? What's the status of the equipment? Is it maintained properly? Is it properly fitted?

Second, find out if your school has an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers are often the front line for youth sports safety. They don't have the same challenge that a coach or a parent may have in terms of conflicts of interest and how to manage wanting the kid to play versus wanting the kid to be safe. The trainer’s role is to keep the kids safe. If the school doesn't have a trainer but has a contact or collision sport, why doesn't it have a trainer? What would it take to get a trainer for your school or for your league? Are your coaches educated in concussions?

These are things you can take care of right now. Educate yourself, the athletes and the coaches; make sure you have an athletic trainer for a collision sport; make sure the equipment is in place and used properly; and make sure the officials are following and enforcing the rules. This will help to prevent concussions and other sports injuries.

Proper rules need to be enforced. Cheap shots from the side should be avoided. For instance, if you don't see the opposing player coming on your blindside you are not as likely to brace yourself for impact, and your head’s going to move more. Concussion is a brain movement injury; the more movement, the more possibility there is for injury.

If you were going to take your kid to a piano teacher or a Spanish teacher, you would grill them a little bit, you'd interview them, you might want them to meet a certain standard. Coaches are sports teachers for our kids, and we should vet them with no less rigor than we do piano teachers and Spanish teachers.

This content originally appeared online at UCLA Health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.