At this time of the year and through the summer, many kids and teens are considering what sports they want to participate in. While the health care professionals advocate for children to stay healthy by engaging in activities and sports that encourage strength and cardiovascular health, there are some basic rules to follow to make sure your child stays healthy and safe – and to prevent sports injuries.
Preventing Sports Injuries
- Get a sports physical annually. This is an opportunity for your healthcare provider to assess if you are at risk of injury and to work with you to prevent injury.
- Make sure your child is well hydrated before and after activities. When the body is in motion, the muscles are working hard which raises the temperature of the body and therefore produces sweat that evaporates and cools the body off. While sports drinks are sometimes important during extremely hot days or on days that your child is playing in multiple games, plain water is sufficient most of the time for the child/teenage athlete. A basic rule of thumb is to drink water 1-2 hours prior to the activity, again 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the activity, then every 20 minutes or so during the activity, and finally, replenish fluids slowly over the next few hours. Have child stop the activity and hydrate if they begin to feel too hot or are having trouble keeping up with the activity. Avoid outside activities during extremely hot or humid weather.
- Stop activity if there is pain. The old saying “no pain, no gain” is not meant to be taken literally. Listen to your child and watch for signs of limping, slowing or wincing. Do not let a game stop you from protecting your child’s long term well-being. There will always be other games or activities to play in.
- Condition the body slowly. Have child slowly build up to full speed or longer duration of an activity over the course of weeks. Most injuries in children are due to sprains of ligaments (tissues that connect bone to bone) or strains of muscles and tendons (tissues that connect muscle to bone). The good news is most of these injuries can be avoided by proper conditioning throughout the season and stretching before and after the game. Children are more prone to injury during their rapid growth cycles, so be most aware of aches and pains during this time.
- Take time off from a sport. Specialists are now seeing more serious injuries at a younger age and it is a growing concern. It is very important to take at least one day off during the week from the activity or sport you are involved in. This allows the body time to heal, recover and rebuild. Just as important, is taking time off from a sport by getting involved in another activity for a season. This allows the body to develop other muscles of the body and to avoid “overuse” injuries from repetitive motion for long periods of time, for example:
- Swimming-Swimmer’s Shoulder
- Basketball-Jumper’s Knee
- Soccer-IT Band Syndrome
- Baseball-Little League Elbow).