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By Keren Perles
Each year in the U.S., over 38 million kids and teens take part in sports, and over 3.5 million children under age 15 need medical treatment due to sports injuries.
Lindsay Hansen, program manager of recreational safety at Safe Kids Worldwide, says some of the most common causes of sports injuries are often overlooked by parents and coaches. Here are her tips for a safe experience for your child.
See a Doctor
Before beginning any organized sport, your child should visit a doctor for a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE). Although you may think that your child is in perfect health, the doctor will be able to detect any underlying conditions your child may have that can impact her safety in a given sport. The Safe Kids website has a free copy of the PPE form, which you can bring in to your doctor on the day of the exam.
Choose an Educated Coach
All coaches should be trained in first aid and CPR. They should also learn the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses (from mild dehydration to heat stroke), concussions and injuries that occur most in their sport. Parents should be aware of these signs and symptoms as well.
Inform your coach of your child's medical conditions, such as asthma or heart problems, allergy information and the phone number of your child’s doctor.
Rest to Avoid Overuse
An estimated 50 percent of pediatric sports injuries are related to overuse. These types of injuries are more common in children who take part in two or more sports that put strain on the same body part. Overuse injuries usually cause tendonitis—of the knee or elbow, for example.
Kids should have about two days off from sports per week, as well as a 10-week hiatus from any particular sport each year. In addition, they should get a rest break during practices and games.
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Your child should drink water before physical activity and get regular water breaks—about every 20 minutes or so. Kids are at a higher risk of heat illness than adults, since they have a lower sweating capacity and produce more metabolic heat.
It’s also crucial that parents and coaches know how to identify the signs and symptoms of heat illness, including nausea, dizziness and a high body temperature.
Stretching and releasing any muscle tension before a game or practice can help to reduce the risk of muscle injury. Depending on the sport, this may be accomplished by doing an aerobic exercise (jogging or doing jumping jacks, for example) and stretching the muscles that will be used during play. Encourage players to hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds.
Stay Safe at Practice
Many parents find themselves being more lax with safety rules during practice, as opposed to during a game, while 62 percent of sports-related injuries occur during practice sessions. So make sure your child has trained adult supervision, proper safety gear and adequate warm-ups during practice—not just games.
When in Doubt, Sit It Out
If you’re not positive that a child is injured, play it safe and make sure she's taken out of the game. “It’s one game, or one practice, and a child will likely forget it five years from now,” says Hansen, “but a real sports injury that’s not treated properly can sideline a child for years.”
No matter what sport your child plays, make sure she stays safe—and has plenty of fun at the same time.