Now that school is back in session, sports teams are kicking off all across the state. Participating in sports can increase physical coordination, fitness and self-esteem. Team sports like football and baseball teach children and teens about teamwork and self-discipline. So when is your child ready to participate? Age and size shouldn’t be the only measures; if they express a strong interest and you feel they can handle it, schedule your child for a sports physical to determine if they’re healthy enough to get in the game. These physicals can reveal physical strengths and weaknesses of your child and help you avoid unnecessary injuries that could occur if they participate in a sport they are not fit for.
Each year, more than 2.6 million children 19 years old and younger visit the emergency department for sports-related injuries. Kids are a greater risk than adults for sports injuries because they’re still developing, especially if they play a contact sport. To help kids and teens avoid injury, make sure they follow these rules:
- Wear protective gear.
Safety gear should be sport-specific items such as goggles, mouth guards, knee pads or helmets. Make sure all gear fits properly and is in good working condition. If your child must wear eyeglasses while playing, they should be made of non-shattering glass to prevent eye injury.
- Avoid “overplaying.”
Kids should take frequent breaks during strenuous sports to prevent overuse injuries like small muscle tears and fractures.
When playing outdoor sports during warmer months, make sure your child stays hydrated by drinking fluids before, during and after a game or match. Sweat lost during sports must be replaced with equal amounts of fluids each hour of intense sports activity. Common symptoms of dehydration include extreme thirst, weakness and headache; if your child shows these signs, make sure he or she receives fluids immediately.
- Recognize the signs of an injury.
Quick treatment can prevent an injury from becoming more severe or causing permanent damage. Children should never be encouraged to “play through the pain.” As eager as your kids may be to get back in the game, there’s no reason to rush back after an injury. Be sure he or she is completely free of symptoms before resuming play; a young athlete should have full range of motion and no pain or swelling in the affected area.
We do our best to keep our kids safe and active, but injuries do happen. When they do, our Saturday Sports Clinic at OrthoArkansas can help. Every Saturday morning during sports season, OrthoArkansas is open to assess and diagnose injuries, facilitate rehab and prepare athletes to get back on their feet for the next big game. For more information, call Baptist Health HealthLine at (501) 227-8478 or toll-free at 1-888-227-8478.