With the beginning of the school year just around the corner, many of our Smarty kids will gear up for sports! Getting your child involved in community or school athletic programs can help establish lifelong health habits, improve their coordination, build self-esteem and develop self-discipline. Colleen Wunderlich, MD, MSc, a board-certified pediatric physiatrist (a doctor specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation) at Levine Children’s Hospital says, “Staying active with age-appropriate exercise that incorporates safety and fun improves lifelong health and mood.” And while sports offer many benefits, they also involve some risk of sports injuries.
Many sports injuries are minor, but some are more serious and can even have lifelong effects such as concussion. As a parent, remember that small athletes are very different than adult athletes. No matter how well children perform on the basketball court or in the pool, they still have growing muscles, bones and ligaments. For example, an injury that might result in a bruise in an adult could lead to a broken bone in a child.
By balancing safety and fun, we can give our kids the best opportunity to enjoy and learn from their sporting experience. Here are five tops to keep your little athlete injury free.
1. Don’t push your child too hard. It’s natural to want our children to do his or her best. However, trying to perform beyond their ability puts children at risk for injury. Instead, emphasize having fun, building confidence and being a good sport.
2. Do support proper training. Little bodies can’t endure the type of intense conditioning that teens and adults care. Now is the time to promote proper training and preparation. Look for programs that include age-appropriate instruction and ensure your child understands the rules of the game. Coaches are good resources for developing training programs, as are sports medicine resources.
3. Do invest in protective gear. Protective gear is vital for preventing injury, especially in contact sports. Make sure your child knows how to put it on and always wears it.
4. Don’t forget about the eyes. Most injury prevention focuses on broken bones and muscle strains, however eye injury should also be on your concern list. Encourage your child to wear protective eye gear and urge your school or program to adopt an eyewear policy.
5. Do take injury seriously. If you little one is tired, in pain or not focus, suggest taking a break from play. Pain could signal an underlying injury that may need assessment. When children are tired, they may not make good decisions on the field.
Carolinas Healthcare System’s network of urgent care centers are conveniently located in communities, ready to treat sports medicine injuries in children and adults. Our staff is able to assess injuries and make referrals to our sports medicine providers, including fellowship trained sports medicine doctors, physical medicine & rehab specialists and orthopedic surgeons, if needed.
Enjoy the sporting season and play safe!