Each year kid’s sport seasons are getting longer and longer, while the level of play is also growing more and more intense. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly common for young athletes to participate in the same sport nearly all year round. Thus allowing sports injuries to occur more easily in children and teens. Read on below for a guide to injury prevention and protection in young growing adolescents.
As it is often a requirement, team members need to acquire an annual sports examination before season participation. Sports exams are quite different from that of a yearly well-child checkup. A sports exam consists of sports related evaluations and questions to ensure the young athlete is ready to compete safely. One should make their child’s examination at around 6 weeks before the start of the season. This time frame allows for follow up tests and visits, if needed.
It is important to prepare your child for their desired sport prior to the first day of practice. Exercising for at least one hour a day is vital. Your child should be slowly building up endurance to withstand the length and intensity of the sport they will be participating in. Encouraging specific exercises that will aid in specialized development for the sport they will be playing is an immense help in preventing injuries that occur when increasing activity too quickly in underutilized muscles.
For instance, if your child is going to play soccer, they should begin running. Younger children can begin with a few laps around the soccer field and slowly increase the distance each week as they grow accustom to the intensity. While older athletes can start with one mile and work up to a few more each week. It is also vital that your young athlete stretch their muscles daily to increase flexibility, which increases injury prevention by tenfold. Ask your child’s healthcare provider, athletic trainer, or coach for suggestions on the correct stretches your child should be practicing before the beginning of the season.
While it is true that your child will learn the rules of their sport during practice, it is a good idea to begin teaching them the rules and required sports equipment prior to season practice. Discussing the rules with your child beforehand will not only keep them safe but it will also keep them knowledgeable. For instance, teaching your child about football regulations will help prevent them from acquiring neck injuries. Or teaching them about baseball guidelines, such as pitch count, will protect them from from hurting their arms and shoulders.
In conjunction with teaching your child the rules and guidelines of their sport, you should also be teaching them how to utilize the correct safety gear and equipment. Helmets, pads, and mouth guards all lower the chance of your child getting hurt. It is just as equally important to make sure that your child is playing their sport on safe surfaces. For instance, double check that soccer goal posts are anchored and basketball poles are padded. Speak up if you find any issues on the field, court, or in the pool.
Light stretching and jogging prior to games and practices help to warm the muscles making them flexible and ready for activity. Stretching post activity is also important as it aids the muscles in recovery and injury prevention.
In order for young athletes to grow big and strong it is vital that they eat well-balanced meals. Each meal should contain food from all of the proper food groups which includes grains, veggies, fruits, meat, beans, and dairy. If you have any inquires about how much or what types of food your child needs, please contact their health practitioner for proper advice. Sleep is also paramount for sports performance. Well-rested athletes have shown to perform better and obtain less injuries because they are fully alert and not distracted by exhaustion. Your child can truly benefit from a good night’s sleep.
While it is important for your kids to drink fluids every twenty minutes during activity, water is typically the best choice. Sports drinks should only be drank when your child has been intensely active for over an hour. Sports drinks are good for replacing potassium and sodium that is lost when sweating. They also provide energy. The downside of sports drinks is that they contain a ton of sugar, so it is best to not give your children more than one a day.
Never allow your child to play whilst in pain. It is common for kids to try to play through pain in order to avoid missing a game or being viewed as the weak link. Help your child by teaching them to listen to their body and comprehend when pain is their body’s way of letting them know they need to rest. Pain can also be a sign of a serious injury, such as a sprain or sign of overuse. Signs of overuse include stress fractures and/or growth center injuries. Thus, it is extremely important for growing bodies to not participate in game play and instead get plenty of rest when in pain.
If you are concerned that your child may be injured - please take them to their primary health provider or athletic trainer immediately. Sports medicine doctors are great as well because they specialize in sport related injuries in children and teens. The sooner you get your child help, the sooner your provider can help get your child back into tip top shape ready to participate in activities again. Prior to rejoining the team, make sure your child or teen is cleared by their primary healthcare provider to resume participation.