Back-to-school season equates to sports season for many middle and high school athletes. While team sports impart many wonderful things like discipline, focus, interdependence, and physical fitness, there is also an ever-present risk of orthopedic sports injuries. Sports injuries are the leading cause of seeking emergency medical care for 12-17-year olds; according to USA Today, every year over 1.3 million student athletes experience a serious sports injury.
Aside from the pain and interruption to daily life, sports injuries can cause children and teens lifelong problems . As parents, we want to protect the welfare of our children’s bodies and minds while playing sports. Consider the following list of tips to help keep your child safe during their sports seasons this fall.
- Start preparing in the summer. Encourage your star athlete to stay active over the summer break. Whether it’s participating in organized sports, playing casually with friends, or simply working out regularly, maintaining muscle conditioning and endurance is much easier than having to start all over when the new season starts in the fall.
- Have a pre-season physical examination performed. Make an appointment with your child’s primary care physician or an orthopedic physician in order to screen for any existing conditions or issues that may cause problems later in the season.
- Warm up and cool down properly for practices and games. Low-impact activities such as walking, slow jogging, or cycling will warm up the muscle groups, encourage circulation of blood and oxygen to all extremities, and prime the body for more intense activity. After the practice or game is over, cooling down with low-impact activities will help prevent stiffness and soreness.
- Just because it feels like summer is over doesn’t mean the sun goes away! Don’t forget to continue using sunscreen for outdoor sports.
- Hydrate adequately before, during, and after practices and games. This is the best way to prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion, and keep muscles, tissues, and organs functioning optimally.
- Use the necessary protective gear for the sport. Make sure your children are outfitted with properly-fitting and protective helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, athletic cups, mouth guards, and other gear to keep vulnerable body parts safe. Protecting against concussions is essential, as teens are more vulnerable to the effects.
- Know rules of the game and practice proper technique. One way to safeguard against accidents is for all the players to know the rules of the game well; this will keep kids from running into each other, or getting black eyes from hockey or lacrosse sticks. Additionally, make sure your child knows and practices good techniques for his or her sport. Is their posture and running stance good? Do they know how to tumble or fall down without getting hurt? Being on top of the rules and techniques is another great way to help prevent accidents from happening.
- Help your child keep a healthy attitude towards sports. Encourage your child to avoid any pressure there might be to over-train and push themselves too far. Let them know the importance of stopping for rest when they feel fatigued. Fatigue multiplies the risk of sports injuries because many protective mechanisms fail when a player is overtired. Teach your child awareness of his or her physical state.
- Make sure kids are playing for the love of the sport, not out of pressure to perform. Many middle- and high-schoolers will push themselves too far out of trying to win scholarships to universities, go professional, or reach an Olympic level of performance. While these are noble goals, if the pressure is pushing young athletes to unhealthy extremes in mind and body, someone (like a parent or coach) needs to intervene and help them refocus on their well-being.
Not all sports-related injuries are avoidable, but following these tips and being prepared can significantly help reduce the risks. Patient Care Now’s own Dr. Andrew Ball has over 22 years of experience in emergency medicine, and specializes in patient safety and satisfaction.
Whether you need a pre-sports season physical, or treatment for a sports injury, Dr. Ball is here to help! No appointment is needed – just walk in to our convenient Fairless Hills location for top-notch preventive and acute care. Call us at (267) 202-6433 with any questions or for more information.