More and more kids are enjoying organized sports at a younger age than ever before. While this is a wonderful way to introduce kids early on to healthy lifestyles, it also puts kids at higher risks for sports injuries. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 775,000 children under the age of 15 are treated in hospital emergency departments for sports related injuries each year in the United States. (1). According to the CDC, close to 95% of these are strains and sprains.
Parents and coaches need to be careful not to push kids too hard. “Kids are more susceptible to injuries, and especially to repetitive injuries, because they are growing,” states Cindy Miles, PT, MEd, PCS.
Below are some safety tips, adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, and the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, which are published in the American Physical Therapy Association’s Magazine of Physical therapy. (2).
1. Make sure your child wears all the required safety gear every time he or she plays and practices. Know how the sports equipment should fit your child and how to use it. If you’re not sure, ask the coach or a sporting goods expert for help. Set a good example-if you play a sport, wear your safety gear too.
2. Insist that your child warm up and stretch before playing, paying special attention to the muscles that will get the most use during play (for example, a pitcher should focus on warming up the shoulder and arm.)
3. Teach your child not to play through pain. If your child gets injured, see a health care provider.
4. Make sure first aid is available at all games and practices.
5. Talk to and watch your child’s coach. Coaches should enforce all the rules of the game, encourage safe play, and understand the special injury risks that young players face.
6. If you’re not sure if it’s safe for your child to perform a certain technique or move (such as heading a soccer ball or diving off the highest platform), ask your physical therapist and the coach about it.
7. Above all, keep sports fun. Putting too much focus on winning can make your child push too hard and risk injury.
1. Hearnburg Johnson, Lara. The challenges of modern society. PT-Magazine of Physical Therapy. 2002; v10, no11: 42.
2. Hearnburg Johnson, L. p42-48.