Protect Your Child from Sports Injuries
Most children depend on recreational and school sports for exercise and fun. But too many young athletes suffer needless injuries.
Each year, more than 2.6 million children up to age 19 suffer sports injuries severe enough to require emergency-room treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Any physical activity involves some risks, but injury rates are highest in high-impact sports.
Sports are the second most frequent cause of injury to teenagers, although, after puberty, boys are more likely to be hurt than girls of the same age.
Mouth and Facial Injuries
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry is concerned with the prevalence of sports-related injuries in today’s youth. Increased competitiveness has resulted in an alarming number of dental and facial injuries, which combined represent a high percentage of the total injury experienced in youth sports.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry therefore recommends that administrators of youth, high school, and college sporting teams take the following preventive measures to help reduce the number of face and mouth injuries, as well as other bodily injuries.
Properly fitted protective mouth guards should be recommended for all youth participating in contact and collision sports, and required for all youth participating in sports that have a high risk for orofacial injury.
A certified face protector should be recommended for boys and girls ages 12 and younger who are participating in organized baseball and softball activities, and required for youths ages 13 through high school-age for organized baseball and softball activities.
A dentist with expertise in dental and facial injuries be consulted prior to the start of the season to recommend procedures for dealing with sports-related injuries, such as knocked out teeth, also known as avulsed teeth.
Know Your Coaches and Program
Whether coaches are volunteers, teachers, or other paid professionals, parents should make sure that the coaches are able to handle their teams safely, say experts at the American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Unfortunately, only a small percentage (10 percent) of volunteer coaches has any training in safety or coaching skills.
Before your child signs up for a sports league, these are aspects about the program you need to know:
Certification and training. At minimum, coaches should be certified in first aid and CPR.
Emergency preparedness. A well-equipped first aid kit, a checklist for what to do in emergencies, and a cell phone should be taken to practices and games. Leagues should also adopt policies regarding inclement weather, including canceling practices or moving them indoors when prudent.
Safety equipment. Coaches should require young athletes to wear appropriate safety gear, such as helmets, face and mouth guards, chest protectors, and athletic supporters. All gear and field equipment, such as goalposts and backboards, should meet national safety standards.
Preparation and conditioning. Coaches should lead team members through warm-up routines before games and practices and stretching routines and cooldowns afterward.
Match-ups. Young athletes should play with and against others of similar age, weight, and skill levels.
Coaching philosophy. A win-at-all-costs attitude can push children past their capabilities, resulting in injuries. Coaches should stress skill development and fun. No child should be forced to play when tired or in pain.
Field command. Horseplay and aggressive or rowdy behavior can result in injuries. Coaches should be required to stay in control.
Background checks. Before hiring any coach, league managers should do a background check to make sure the person has no criminal record.
Play Your Part
Even the best coach can’t do it all. As a parent, you can also play an important role in making sure your child’s sports experience is a safe and happy one. ASEP recommends these steps:
Offer to help. Your presence shows you care, and it can give a coach valuable help in maintaining control.
Play with your children. Help them stay fit by making physical activity part of everyday family life. Go biking, running, or walking together.
Value good sportsmanship. It’s common sense — when children respect the game and one another, they’re less likely to behave in ways that put them at needless risk. Parents need to instill the principles of good sportsmanship in themselves and their youngsters.
”Sports Injuries: The Reality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/safechild/Sports_Injuries/index.html Acessed 2013.
Yang et al, “Patient and Hospital Characteristics Associated with Length of Stay and Hospital Charges for Pediatric Sports-Related Injury Hospitalizations in the United States, 2000-2003.” American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics. April 2007, vol. 119, no. 4. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/119/4/e813 Accessed 2013.
“Policy on Prevention of Sports-Related Injuries” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. 2013. http://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/P_Sports.pdf. Accessed 2013.
“Sport Parent Survival Guide.” American Sport Education Program. www.asep.com/Administrators/SportParentSurvivalGuide.pdf Accessed 2013.