Today, more than ever, kids are participating in organized sports and physical activities. Some are playing for fun while others are highly competitive and hoping to use athletics as a way to get accepted to college. It should come as no surprise, then, that child injuries are on the rise and sports is a leading cause.
There are many steps you can take to help minimize the risks to your child. Knowing some basics on prevention is a great start.
- Bring your child for a physical exam to ensure that they are healthy and physically prepared to play before they begin a sport.
- Be sure your child is using proper equipment and safety gear and that it is sized correctly. Depending on the sport, particularly important items to pay attention to are mouth guards, helmets and protective eye gear.
- Research a local sports training school. These schools can teach your child the skills and body mechanics needed. They also focus on strengthening, flexibility and proper breathing.
- Proper nutrition is important. Be sure your child is eating whole foods, fruits, vegetables and adequate protein. Also, have them drink fluids before and during activity to ensure they are properly hydrated. This can provide more energy and minimize the chances of muscle cramps, strains and more serious injuries.
- Have your child warm up. The warmer their muscles are the more flexible their body will be. They should engage in light activity for at least 10 minutes before practice or competition. Jogging and a brief calisthenics routine are typical warm up exercises.
- After their muscles are warm, it’s a good idea to stretch each major muscle group for 20 seconds or more to release any muscle tightness.
- Aerobic exercise is important to develop their heart and lungs and provide the proper stamina needed. They can begin with 5-10 minutes of running and, over time, build up to longer sessions.
- Ask your doctor or coach about orthopedic bracing. Bracing has become very popular to help prevent injuries as well as to provide support for a past injury.
- Rest is important during games and practices and it’s also a good idea to have full days off. The body needs time to recover and rebuild to avoid injuries caused by overuse.
- If your child has an ongoing complaint of pain or discomfort, go see your family doctor. It’s important to teach your children to listen to their bodies whenever they are tired or in pain. Building toughness is good but we all to learn when we need a break or medical attention.
- Be sure your child’s coach is implementing these steps and shows proper concern for the safety of all the kids in his or her charge.
Sports and other physical activities provide great social, emotional and physical benefits. So get your children involved, just be sure they are safe and well prepared for whatever sport they choose to participate in.
Note: Please consult with your doctor before starting any new nutrition or exercise program.