Sports medicine doctors offer these tips to help reduce the number of youth sports injuries:
1. Warm-up and cool down properly. Warm-up exercises, such as stretching and light jogging, can help minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury and make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible. Cooling down exercises loosen the body’s muscles that have tightened during exercise. Make warm-ups and cool downs part of your kids’ routine before and after sports participation.
2. Know and abide by the rules of the sport. Kids should also be instructed in how to use the sport’s athletic equipment properly.
3. Avoid playing when very tired or in pain. Children should take a break immediately if in pain.
4. Be in proper physical condition to play the sport. Before starting a sport, have your child work out to prepare.
5. Keep kids hydrated. Make sure there is adequate water or other liquids to maintain proper hydration. Kids need to drink 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes, plus more after playing.
6. Wear appropriate protective gear, such as shin guards for soccer, a hard-shell helmet when facing a baseball or softball pitcher, a helmet and body padding for ice hockey. Make sure your child uses the proper protective gear for a particular sport. This may lessen the chances of being injured.
7. Make sure the coach is certified. Enroll your child in organized sports through schools, community clubs, and recreation areas where there may be adults who are certified coaches. Ask about the coach’s background and training.
8. Get a preseason physical examination. Kids should have a thorough exam from a physician before participating in sports, including a cardiovascular workup to make sure there are no pre-existing conditions.
9. Insist on a team emergency plan. What happens if a child is injured? Where’s the first-aid kit? Who drives to the hospital? Make sure any injured child sees a doctor right away. Here are more tips for an emergency action plan.