Summer is winding down, and the start of a new school year can only mean one thing: fall sports season is here! Whether it’s football, soccer, cheerleading or cross-country, sports are wonderful for children’s health and wellness, keeping them both physically active and involved with their peers.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that more than 2.6 million children are treated in emergency rooms every year for sports-related injuries. Considering there are more than 38 million children participating in organized sports, the overwhelming majority of children play fall sports without being harmed, but the risks are there. The good news, however, is there are several things you can do to help your child stay safe and avoid accidents on the playing field.
Here are some tips to help keep your athletes healthy so they can enjoy the benefits of sports participation for years to come:
Before playing organized sports, make sure your child receives a physical performed by a physician or nurse practitioner under the supervision of a physician. In addition, meet with the coaches before the first practice to inform them of history with asthma or other medical conditions that require special attention. If you are accompanying your kid to practice or a sporting event, be sure that you are ready for an emergency by keeping a small first aid kit in the car and knowing where the nearest hospital is.
Warm Up and Stretch
Make sure to set aside time before every practice and game to warm up properly. Stretching before practice and games is equally as important, as it can release muscle tension and help prevent sports-related injuries.
Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
Be sure to send your athlete(s) to practice and games with a water bottle and encourage to drink plenty of water before, during and after play. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of dehydration and other forms of heat illness. If you’re a coach, establish mandatory water breaks throughout practice and games – don’t wait for your athletes to tell you they’re thirsty.
It does not matter the age, wearing the proper gear is essential to participating in sports. Be sure to use appropriate and properly-fitted sports gear to prevent or reduce the severity of injuries. Additionally, make sure athletes use the correct equipment in order to participate in both practices and games. This may include helmets, shin guards, mouth guards, ankle braces, shoes with rubber cleats and sunscreen.
Follow a good diet
To offset the calories burned during your sport, be sure you're getting a well-balanced, nutritional diet that gives you enough energy. Avoid supplements, which aren't always guaranteed to be safe.
Play head-smart, not head-strong
Athletes and parents should be well educated on the risks and warning signs of concussion. If you suspect a concussion, seek medical assistance immediately. And, when in doubt, sit it out—one game or play isn’t worth a lifetime of concussion-related health issues.
Make Rest a Priority
To help avoid injury due to overuse, athletes should take breaks during practices and games. It is also important to encourage athletes to tell coaches, parents or another adult about any pain, injury, or illness they may have during or after any practices or games. Athletes should take at least one or two days off each week from any particular sport.
Be a good sport
Sportsmanship is important. Play by the rules, communicate positive safety messages and serve as a model of safe behavior.
Remember, sports are fun and injuries can be prevented. Take the time to warm up properly, listen to your body and if something happens unexpectedly, seek early medical evaluation. As always, The Smith Clinic is here to help!