The University of Kentucky Office of Public Relations and Strategic Communications offers a weekly health column available for use and reprinting by the media. This week’s column is by Johanna M. Hoch, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the sports training and clinical nutrition program at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences.
LEXINGTON, Kentucky (September 12, 2022) — Participating in sports can be beneficial to children’s physical and mental health, as well as a large part of their social lives. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US emergency departments treat nearly 3 million youth sports injuries each year, many of which are preventable with the use of proper safety precautions.
Here are some safety precautions that parents and coaches can take to reduce the risk of sports injuries.
Physical examination prior to participation (EPI). Before starting a new sport or season, make sure your child gets PPE performed by a doctor, nurse, or other qualified health care provider to make sure he’s healthy enough to participate safe
Hydrate and eat balanced meals. Be sure to bring a water bottle to all practices and games and encourage your child to drink water 30 minutes before and every 15-20 minutes while playing a sport to limit the risk of heat illness and dehydration. To ensure they are eating healthy meals, review the school cafeteria menu to encourage them to select foods that provide the most balance and energy for their day. Also consider packing your child a nutritious snack before the game if there is limited time between school and practice.
stretching Encouraging kids to allow time before each practice or game to warm up and stretch can help release muscle tension and prevent muscle tears or strains commonly caused by sports. Athletes should start with 10 minutes of light activity, such as jogging, and stretch all major muscle groups before each practice or game.
Correct safety equipment. Make sure your child has the right protective equipment and gear for each sport. Examples may include helmets, wrist guards, shin pads, and knee or elbow pads. Some sports may also require mouth guards to prevent dental injuries. Check with your team coach to make sure all gear is in good condition, fits properly and is worn properly for each practice or game.
Listen to your body. It is important to teach your children to understand the signs and symptoms of common sports injuries or illnesses. Encourage kids to tell a parent, coach, or other trusted adult when something isn’t right. There’s nothing wrong with resting when needed to prevent an injury or illness from getting worse, and taking at least one day off a week can help prevent injury.
Make sure trainers are ready. If your child’s school doesn’t have a sports coach, it’s important that coaches and other adults who support practices and events are certified in first aid and CPR, and have a first aid kit with them. They should also be aware of signs of emerging conditions that require immediate referral and have an emergency action plan that ensures efficient and effective transport to medical care if necessary. Coaches should encourage players to sit out if injured, seek a medical evaluation, and create adequate hydration breaks to ensure safety during practice.