Decrease your child’s risk to sport injuries
Summer is upon us which means school is out and now you have to help keep your kids active without pushing them too hard. A summer of fun activities can quickly turn into a summer of stress and overuse injury. From various little league teams to sport camps put on by your surrounding community centers the decision of what activities are appropriate and how much your kids can handle is an overwhelming thought.
Keeping your kids safe is a high priority for all parents and coaches. Keeping an open line of communication with the child and the coach is extremely important for parents to understand the mental and physical demands placed on your child’s body while participating in multiple physical activities over the summer. Kids are starting organized sports at an earlier age these days which sometimes means the size and athletic ability of your child may put them at risk when competing with others the same age. Doing a little research and talking with the coaches/instructors before just placing your children into a camp or league can give you a good understanding if that activity will be a good fit for your child.
Risk of Injury
All sports have a risk of injury; some more than others. In general, the more contact in a sport, the greater the risk of injury. Concussions occur after an injury to the head or neck. They are most likely caused by body-to-body contact, body-to-object (like a ball) contact, or body-to-ground contact. Most sports injuries involve the soft tissues of the body, not the bones. Only a small percentage of sports injuries involve broken bones. However, the areas where bones grow in children are at more risk of injury during the rapid growth phase of puberty. The main types of sports injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments) and strains (injuries to muscles). Many injuries are caused by overuse. Overuse is when a child overdoes it (by pitching too many innings, for example). This places stress on the tendons, joints, bones, and muscles and can cause damage.
How to reduce risks
- Wear the right gear. Appropriate protective equipment may include pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, and shin), helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups, and eyewear.
- Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises before and after games can help increase flexibility of muscles and tendons used in play. There are a wide variety of stretch assisting tools available such as the foam rolls or stretch bands which can make stretching more fun for your kids.
- Strengthen muscles. At a young age the focus will be on general motor patterns and as the athletes get older the exercise will consist of more sport specific movements and overall increase in major muscle development. Conditioning exercises during practice and before games can help strengthen muscles used in play but you may also need to supplement their activities with a specific strength training program. Gyms such as the Seattle Athletic Club offer summer strength training programs for all ages and skill levels all year round.
- Use the proper technique throughout the season of play. Depending on the sport your child’s attention to details and technique will help them decrease risk of injury.
- Take breaks. Rest periods are important during practice and games to reduce the risk of overuse injuries. During the year, a 2-month break from a specific sport is recommended to prevent overuse injuries. Going from school organized sport right into summer league can attribute to overuse injuries because there is not adequate recovery from the stress of the port.
- Play safe. There should be strict rules against headfirst sliding (in baseball and softball), spearing (in football), and body checking (in ice hockey) to prevent serious head and spine injuries.
- Stop the workout if there is pain.
- Prevent heat injury or illness. Rules for safe exercise in the heat include the following:
- Drink plenty of proper fluids before, during, and after exercise or play.
- Allow athletes to gradually adjust to exercising in hot, humid weather by increasing activities slowly over the first 2 weeks of practice.
- Decrease or stop practices or competitions during periods when the combination of excessive heat and humidity approaches dangerous levels.
- Wear lightweight clothing.
- Stop playing if lightning is detected within a 6-mile radius (follow the “5 second per mile” rule).
- Play on safe fields. Inspect fields before practices and games. Clear all debris and repair holes and uneven surfaces.
It’s also important to make sure your child has a complete physical exam by your pediatrician before participating in any sport. Most organized sports teams require an exam before a child can play. These exams are not designed to stop children from participating, but to make sure they are in good health and can safely play the game.
Keep your children active with a variety of activities. The variety will allow for a well rounded development of athletic ability. The variety will also allow for your children to recover from any excessive demands placed on specific body parts during a sport season. If you have specific questions about your child’s fitness development or how to keep them injury free please contact personal trainer Jason Anderson at the Seattle Athletic Club.