Organized sports have always been recognized as an excellent way for children to not only learn social skills but also as an outlet for them to increase their physical development and to build stamina. It is also acknowledged that active participation in sports may increase a child’s risk for physical injuries, however, if parents and coaches are willing to heed safety guidelines, as recommended by many experts, most serious injuries to children at play are preventable.
When our children are at play, they should feel free to do so without worry of risking pain or serious injury since the goal these activities is for them to have fun with their friends and to participate in games that are good for them. While much attention has been focused on children sustaining concussions while at play, more serious hazards, such as sudden cardiac arrest and heat stroke are likely avoided all together if parents and coaches begin to learn more about guidelines that are available through organizations like the National Alliance for Youth Sports, Youth Sports Safety Alliance, National Athletic Trainers Association, and STOP Sports Injuries. Risk of injury to our young athletes can be greatly reduced when they are given access to properly maintained equipment, provided an environment for play that is safe and additional supervision of healthcare professionals, who know how and when to intervene.
Whether your child plays team sports like football, soccer or basketball or if they participate in track, marching band or cheerleading, here are a few tips that may help in preventing a potentially serious injury.
1) Make Sure Your Child is Prepared – Besides being absolutely certain that they feel they are in charge of the decision to participate in a given activity, and that is it not being forced upon them to join a team, it is important for children to understand the expectations of being involved with a group, as well as the physical and possibly psychological commitment that might be required of them. Before your child makes that commitment, it would be best to have talk with their doctor to address any health concerns, and for the parent and child to be honest when communicating the child’s health history when talking with coaches and teachers.
2) Get to Know the Coach – Keeping in mind that many sports leagues depend on volunteer coaches, take the time to talk to your child’s coach and find out about their qualifications. By asking a few questions, any parent would be able to find out just how well versed the coach is in the sport and whether or not the coach is capable of putting your child’s safety and well being above their or the team’s desire to win. Also, try to get an understanding of the coach’s philosophy and conditioning of young players. Children, like the rest of us, are going to make mistakes. A good coach teaches children how to learn from mistakes and never berates or publicly humiliates them.
3) Check Out That Game Gear – Make sure that the team’s equipment is not only well maintained, but that there is protective equipment available as well. IE., young children that play soccer should have shin guards. Be sure to visually inspect the playing surfaces and equipment for any safety hazards and find out if there is an AED, as well as someone that has been trained to use it, available during games and practices, in case of emergencies. An AED is a life saving device should a child fall into cardiac arrest, and if the first shock is given very shortly after they collapse. Don’t forget to make sure the coach has current emergency contact information readily available at all times.
4) Watch Out for Heat and Humidity – Help your child understand the importance of staying properly hydrated. Over time athletes learn how their bodies acclimate to temperature changes, but the young ones have yet to fully understand how their bodies react when going through various temperature changes. Caffeinated beverages , pills and gums are not the best choice for children and should be avoided even more so when our children are at play, as caffeine has been known to create an addiction problems.
5) Be Supportive – Attend your child’s games whenever possible and be sure to encourage them to do their best. Remember to show good cheer, while emphasizing the importance of playing fair and having fun, irregardless if their team wins. Always find positive and helpful things to say about your child’s behavior and performance and, if there are any safety or health concerns, be sure to bring them to the attention of the coach or team manager.