By Brian Acton
Now that school is back in session, parents with young athletes are gearing up for sports season. Extracurricular sports are a valuable activity: they teach kids the value of teamwork, discipline and how to use their bodies to achieve a goal. But with these rewards come risk – over 3.5 million children under 14 are injured playing sports annually. There are too many variables at play to completely shield your kids from sports injuries. But you can help them reduce the likelihood of injury and stay safe while having fun out in the field. Check out these tips to get started:
Get them Checked Pre-Season You should take your young athlete to the physician for a physical evaluation prior to the season. In fact, many school-sponsored sports programs require this as a prerequisite for your child’s participation. Even if they don’t, it’s a good idea regardless. In some cases, your child’s regular physician can perform the evaluation. In others, the physician may recommend a specialist. An evaluation can clear your child for the sports season or identify any issues that need to be treated or monitored carefully during the school year.
Get the Right Equipment Make sure you send your child to practice with the right equipment. If your child is re-using equipment from the previous year, double check everything to make sure it’s in good shape – you don’t want helmets, pads or other gear with too much wear and tear. The right footwear is a sound investment, as well – many sports require specific footwear and sending them to practice with basic running shoes won’t suffice. Finally, a water bottle is key as hydration is essential!
Evaluate the Sports Programs Do your research on the sports program, team and coaches. If you can, talk to the coaches about their methods and how they work with players. Talk to the other parents as well – no one can give a better impression than the parents who are already involved. Attend practices and games yourself to see what your kids are experiencing in action. Finally, ask your kids how they’re doing and what they think about their programs. If something doesn’t feel right – for instance, an abnormal amount of injuries during practice - you may want to investigate what’s going on.
Emphasize the Importance of Warmup and Recovery Stretching and warming up before strenuous activity is essential to athletic performance and reducing the risk of injury. Rest and recovery is just as important – your child’s muscles need to repair and recuperate after an intense workout, practice or game. Make sure to emphasize this with your child – kids sometimes tend to feel invincible and believe they can hop in and out of intense physical activity without issue. This can be especially risky when jumping back into a sport after a summer of relative inactivity. Make sure both your child and the coaches understand the importance of pre and post workout routines.
In Closing Sports deliver many benefits to young people, including friendship, teamwork skills and confidence. But the threat of injury is real. Make sure your child is protected before they suit up and head out to practice. You can’t protect your child 100% of the time, but you can make sure they’re taking the right precautions and participating in activities that are fun and as safe as possible.