Playing It Safe: Kids and Sport Safety

November 24, 2020 10:15:00 AM EST | USASF

As a parent, you want what’s best for your children. You want to enrich them with wonderful experiences, to be healthy and have fun.

The problem is, sometimes it feels like those goals are working against each other. How much fun is enough? What happens when school stops being fun and becomes stressful? What about sports? Sports should be enjoyable and can provide an impactful and enriching experience. Injuries are also a part of sports. Is it worth the risk?

Some in the media have pointed out the risk in youth sports, to the point it’s often difficult to discern facts from myths. The truth can get muddy in the media’s push to write a good story. None of this is helping parents decide what’s best for their kids.

At what point do you stop protecting your children from injury and just let them play?

These are difficult questions. Luckily, there are a few facts that can make your decision easier.

The Truth About Kids and Sports

There is a multitude of benefits for children in sports, physical skills and health being two of the most important. Kids who participate in sports and are active typically have a healthier weight, which is critical for long-term health. Developing motor skills and muscle memory are other physical benefits. The habits learned in sports will benefit coordination and confidence, and help with learning new skills.

Not only are sports an important part of growing up healthy, they are also a benefit to social skills and confidence. Kids who play sports learn how to work together on a team and support their teammates. They learn sportsmanship, how to play by the rules and how to respect their coach, referees and umpires, and members of the other team. Many adults who played sports when they were younger cite the experience as an important factor in future success.

Many children who play sports do better academically. Sports require learning as well as memorization of the rules and plays. Goal-setting and problem-solving on the field are skills that transfer to the classroom.

Sports Risk and Kids

These benefits, while important, are not meant to lessen the risk factors that some parents see in sports. There are risks. Every time you play a game or sport, you are exposed to potential injury.

Even with the risk, many parents decide that the benefits of sports outweigh the risk of injury. That is especially true today when sedentary activities dominate popular culture.

Protecting Kids and Preventing Injuries

Luckily, according to studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most sport injuries in children can be avoided with preventative measures. Here are a few best practices for your young athletes:

  • Make sure to get a physical exam with your doctor or pediatrician before the season. They can identify any potential risk factors and prepare you for the sport.
  • Stretching before and after a practice will increase flexibility and help prevent injuries to muscles and ligaments.
  • Safety equipment is critical to preventing injury. Gear should be well maintained and fit properly.
  • Improper training or coaching can increase risk. Make sure your coach understands the sport, has received training, and makes safety a priority.
  • Proper techniques and practice before games are important. Techniques and safe practices should be followed by all participants, all season long.
  • Make sure to take breaks, including water breaks, during practice and games. Stay hydrated, especially in warm weather.
  • Overuse can lead to an increased risk of injury. Overuse injuries occur when an injury doesn’t have time to properly heal and a bone, tendon or muscle is subjected to repeated stress.
  • Sports burnout is another factor that can increase the risk of injury. It’s a good idea to limit kids to, at most, five sporting activities a week. Make sure to schedule time off from organized physical activities to give the body time to rest and recover.

Getting Started with Sports

As a parent, it’s only natural to worry about your children. Any activity with a potential risk needs to be evaluated and monitored.

In a previous blog, we discussed what to look for in safe sport activities. That information, along with the tips for preventing injuries we’ve gathered here, will help keep your children safe. Following the guidelines here, you can focus on the fun and avoid easily preventable injuries.