As kids and teens potentially return to youth sports this fall, safety is a top priority. We’ve put together a checklist to help you keep your young athlete safe, healthy, and injury free as they head back to the field, court, and track.
Make sure your child is getting enough of the right kinds of food to support their activity level. If they play an extremely competitive sport, they need enough calories to replace what they burn, and the right nutrients to build strong muscles and bone. Complex carbohydrates (whole grains), lean proteins, and plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables will give their body what it needs. Supplement with calcium rich dairy when possible to support bone health, especially for girls.
Correctly sized, fitted, and maintained protective gear is a must. It might seem tempting to accept that used piece of equipment that “almost” fits, but your child’s safety depends on having the right protection. Make sure your child’s coach checks their gear for the right fit and makes sure no components are missing. Pay close attention to shoes, as kids grow fast and might need several pairs a year.
Most organized sports-related injuries occur during practice, not an event. Review the school or organization’s policies about practice time and game pay, and make sure your child isn’t at risk for overuse injuries. Too much pitching in baseball or kicking in soccer can stress young joints and cause serious injury.
Only allow participation in one competitive team per sport. Remind your child that mixing up their activities makes them stronger and better all around. Playing two different sports or doing a competitive team sport plus a rigorous individual sport like track can help train different muscles and reduce risks of overuse injuries.
Ask who is on the sports medicine staff to help prevent injuries or manage them. Find out what the school’s emergency plan is, and who will make decisions about your child’s care if they are injured and a parent or guardian is not reachable. Medical decisions should not be made by a minor child or coach, but by sports medicine professionals such as athletic trainers or physicians. Everyone who is interacting with your child should have passed background checks. You’ll also want to confirm that there are personnel around during practice sessions who are certificated in CPR, AED, and first aid.
A pre-participation exam can help determine your child’s readiness to play sports. This is critical, because some children have previously undiagnosed heart or respiratory issues that don’t show up until they exert themselves forcefully during sports activity. Your young athlete should also get an annual physical, and any injury, even seemingly minor ones, should be followed up on.
It can be so easy for children to get dehydrated when they are out on the field for hours. Make sure you go over hydration with your young athlete and confirm they have water and electrolyte drinks on hand even on overcast days. Direct sunlight can increase risk of heat stroke, but your child can sweat plentifully even on a cloudy day. Sunscreen should be a staple on any day, cloudy or sunny.
Dr. Scott Strasburger partners with athletes, trainers, coaches, and athletic departments to provide guidance on sports safety. Contact our office to learn more.