Heather Ochs, MPH
In northern Nevada we are lucky to have easy access to a variety of terrains and recreational facilities. The sports our youth are involved in may range from freestyle skiing to swimming. As a parent you may sometimes see your kids come home with an occasional scratch here or there, but when these minor injuries become more severe like concussions or broken bones, it can be concerning.
According to a new report from Safe Kids Worldwide every 25 seconds a young athlete is seen in the emergency room for a sports-related injury – that’s 3,397 every day. These injuries are not just minor scrapes or bruises. These injuries are major and potentially harmful if not treated or cared for correctly. The most common injuries seen are sprains/strains. A sprain or injury to the knee, specifically to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), happens more often in girls than boys. Safe Kids Worldwide estimates girls are eight times more likely than boys to have an ACL injury.
As kids are often more susceptible to injuries because they are constantly growing, it is crucial to properly train our youth athletes. The Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation developed a prevention program, Pep Program, consisting of warm-up, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics (also known as “jump training” or training without weights or machines), and sport specific agilities to reduce the incidence of knee injuries. Incorporating a proper training program such as the Pep Program may prevent knee injuries. More information on these types of training programs can be found here.
What can you do to prevent your child from having a major injury?
Get to know your child’s coach
Are they certified? According to the new research report by Safe Kids Worldwide, fewer than 50% of coaches say they have received certification on how to prevent and recognize sports injuries. All coaches should be educated in first aid, CPR, AED use and injury prevention skills.
Also find out if the coach is properly warming up and stretching the athletes. Are they following the rules?
Mix it up
Encourage kids to play different sports using different parts of the body. For instance playing sports such as soccer and baseball rather than swimming and baseball would be ideal. In soccer mainly the lower body is used whereas the upper body is used in baseball and swimming.
Specialization of sports in athletes under age 15 has been shown to cause more injuries than any other reason. Almost half of all sports injuries are due to overuse which could be caused by using one muscle group too much. Make sure athletes under age 15 play a variety of sports and take the recommended 10 weeks off from one particular sport to avoid burnout and overuse.
Have your child seen by their doctor
Every child should have a pre-participation physical exam (PPE) completed every year or before starting a new sport. Even though you may think your child is healthy, they might have an undiagnosed condition such as a heart murmur which could be spotted during an evaluation by a doctor.
Know the rules of the games your children participate in and why the rules were put in place. Understanding why the rules have been put into place can give you and your athlete a better understanding of the consequences of not following the rules.
How much do you know about sports safety? Take this interactive quiz.
Be aware and knowledgeable about the sports your children play. Get to know the common injuries of the sports as well as the rules of the game your children are in.
Let your kids know it is okay to speak up if they are tired or hurt. Safe Kids Worldwide reports, 54% of athletes said they have played injured. You and your kids are your best advocates.
If you see something happening that is against the rules, tell someone. Put an end to dirty play and rule breaking. Call fouls that could cause injuries.
Also, be sure to pass what you know on to other parents, youth, and coaches.
Click and be sure to share with others, the recent infographic created by Safe Kids Worldwide.
You can also stay up to date with the Kate Carr’s Huffington Post blog