- Courtesy of Children's of Alabama
For a child, there’s nothing like the lessons learned from being on the field and having an opportunity to make a game winning run or the sportsmanship gained from playing together as a team and coming up short with a loss. Childhood sports are part of our lives. They bring joy to children and their families. Not only that, being involved in athletics can be beneficial to a child’s development. But as any parent knows, there is always the risk of injury.
By knowing the causes of sports injuries, and how to prevent them, you can make involvement in sports a more positive experience.
Drew Ferguson is UAB’s director of Sports Medicine at Children’s of Alabama. He points out that age can be a factor in many injuries. “The younger kids don’t have the body control, the neck coordination to play a lot of these sports”, Ferguson says, “It’s important to try to teach the basics, the fundamentals because developing bodies and awkwardness can lead to injuries that you don’t see in older more developed children.” On the other hand, Ferguson points out, as a child grows and develops, injuries can take place due to the force of physical contact between bigger, stronger kids.
There are things you can do to help prevent your kids from being injured.
Preventing Sports Injuries
Use of Proper Equipment
Children should always use the proper equipment and appropriate safety gear for each sport. That gear should always be the correct size and fit well.
Ask your child’s coach about the appropriate helmets, shoes, mouth guards, athletic cups and padding. Shatterproof goggles should be considered as well.
Protective equipment should be approved by the organizations that govern each of the sports. Protective gear should be properly maintained to ensure effectiveness.
Maintenance and Appropriateness of Playing Surfaces
Coaches and parents should ensure that playing fields are in good condition. Holes and ruts could cause children to fall and get hurt. For sports like running and basketball, surfaces should be more forgiving like a track and wooden courts over concrete surfaces.
Adequate Adult Supervision and Commitment to Safety
Any team sport or activity that kids participate in should be supervised by qualified adults. The team coach should have training in first aid and CPR, and the coach's philosophy should promote players' well-being, not a ‘win at all costs’ approach. Additionally, make sure your kids are matched for sports according to their skill level, size, and physical and emotional maturity.
A child should always be taught how to play the sport before going out on the field. The child should be adequately prepared with warm-ups and training sessions before practices as well as before games. In addition, kids should drink plenty of fluids and be allowed to rest during practices and games.
Types of Injuries
Sports injuries are usually divided into three categories. Acute injuries, overuse injuries and reinjury.
Acute injuries occur suddenly and are usually the result of some trauma. They could range from sprains or strains to the more serious concussions.
Another common source of injury is overuse. This is seen in sports with the same, repetitive motions. One example is “Little League Elbow”, which is pain and tenderness in the elbow due to repetitive throwing.
Reinjury often happens when a player returns to the game before he or she is properly healed from a previous injury. A player should wait for their doctor’s approval before re-entering the sport, and even still, should start back gradually to prevent getting hurt again.
What to Do
If your child is injured, they should stop playing immediately. Ferguson says whether or not to call the doctor may depend on how much pain they are feeling. “On a pain scale from one to ten, if they are below a five you may want to wait,” he says. “But if it gets more painful over time you may want to have them seen for treatment.” You may also consider taking them to a doctor if the area is swollen, they are limping or have limited range of motion, or if the pain continues for more than a week.
Once the child has been treated by a doctor, remember to follow the doctor’s orders! Avoid activity and wait on the doctor’s approval before playing again to avoid reinjury.
By keeping these tips in mind children and their families can do their part to avoid injury and enjoy many years of athletics.
For more information on this or other health and safety topics, visit www.childrensal.org. To see Children's of Alabama experts discuss this topic, click here.