If you have a child who participates in athletics, chances are that you are no stranger to nursing the occasional injury. Minor sprains and strains, impact injuries, and conditions caused by overuse are all common among athletes of all ages. However, being proactive about sports injury prevention can help limit the amount of time your child has to sit on the sidelines.
Every year, more than 3.5 million children age 14 and younger are hurt playing sports. Follow these tips to help reduce the risk of injury and keep your young athlete healthy and ready to play all season long.
Get a Preseason Physical
Most states require a preseason physical, but even if yours doesn’t, it’s usually a good idea. The objective of the physical is to confirm that your child is healthy enough to participate in sports. Some of the conditions that many preseason physicals screen for are:
- Pre-existing cardiac conditions
- Prior injuries
- Eating disorders
- High blood pressure
- Orthopedic issues
If any risk factors are identified, the examiner might recommend physical therapy, treatment, or further evaluation. The American College of Sports Medicine provides more information about the purpose of this examination and the types of screenings that are performed.
Teach the Importance of Warming Up
One of the cornerstones of sports injury prevention is properly warming up before intense athletic activity. Stretching the major muscle groups and gradually increasing the heart rate can help prevent strains, sprains, and overuse injuries. Talk to your child about the importance of taking the time to warm up and teach him or her this basic structure:
- Start with at least five minutes of walking or jogging to increase the heart rate and blood flow.
- Then focus on performing gentle movements specific to the sport.
- After the muscles are warm, stretch them to increase range of motion.
The more prepared the body is before doing athletic activity, the less likely your child is to be injured. This is also a good time to teach him or her that a cooldown is just as important for reducing recovery time and decreasing muscle soreness.
Provide a Healthy Diet
Most kids are inclined to eat a certain amount of junk food. While this might be unavoidable, you can help ensure that they get the nutrients they need by providing a healthy diet for the meals they have at home. Well-balanced meals that include sufficient protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals will give athletes the energy they need to perform while helping keep injuries at bay. Try providing meals that include a combination of:
- Lean proteins
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy
- Healthy fats such as nuts and seeds
Hydration is also an important component of sports injury prevention, so make sure your young athletes drink plenty of water or other healthy liquids.
Enable Ample Rest
Student athletes have to juggle school, sports, family life, and other extracurricular activities. This can be a lot for a child who is still maturing, and it is important for him or her to get enough rest. This includes both regular sleep and rest days that do not include athletic activity. Taking the time to allow the body to recover from physical activity helps prevent sports injuries. Although it may be tempting for your child to push to his or her limits, this can lead to overuse injuries and fatigue.
Ensure Proper Athletic Technique
Poor technique or improper form can contribute to sports injuries, especially if certain motions are repeated over and over. Your child can learn the right way to move his or her body through:
- Extra time with coaches
- Summer camps and clinics
- Private training
- Physical therapy sessions
Many adults have learned that prevention is the best medicine and a much better alternative than recovering from an avoidable injury. While it may not be possible to prevent every injury for your young athlete, the more aware he or she is of the ways he or she can stay healthy, the longer your child will be able to play.
Even the best prepared athletes can suffer from traumatic injuries like broken bones. If your child experiences a break or fracture, download our free Guide to Speeding Up Your Break or Fracture Recovery to learn more about sports injury prevention and how to accelerate the healing process.