Provided by the Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue
Sports participation has become a major cause of serious injury among youth, making sports activities, the second most frequent cause of injury for male and female adolescents. Each year, more than five million children seek treatment in hospital emergency rooms because of sports injuries. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, although the majority of athletic injuries (62%) occur during practice, 50% of these injuries can be avoided.
Each year, approximately 173,285 sports and recreation-related Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs), including concussions, occur among children (birth to 19 years of age), are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the U.S. The National Youth Sports Safety Foundation (NYSSF) was created in 1989 to educate parents, coaches, athletes and health care professionals on injury prevention in youth athletes. NYSSF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have teamed up to protect youth athletes in sports concerning concussions. The program, “Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports”, focuses on the facts, the symptoms, responding to a concussion and returning to the game after a concussion. Heads Up is aimed at reducing the 3.8 million sports-related concussions that occur annually in the U.S.
According to the National Institute of Health Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), the prevention of sports injuries in children requires team effort on the part of parents, coaches and children.
What parents and coaches can do?
Try to group youngsters according to skill level and size, not by chronological age, particularly during contact sports. If this is not practical, modify the sport to accommodate the needs of children with varying skill levels.
Match the child to the sport, and don’t push the child too hard into an activity that she or he may not like or be physically capable of doing.
Try to find sports programs where certified athletic trainers are present. These people, in addition to health care professionals, are trained to prevent, recognize, and give immediate care to sports injuries.
See that all children get a preseason physical exam.
Don’t let (or insist that) a child play when injured. No child (or adult) should ever be allowed to work through the pain.
Get the child medical attention if needed. A child who develops any symptom that persists or that affects athletic performance should be examined by a health care professional. Other clues that a child needs to see a health professional include inability to play following a sudden injury, visible abnormality of the arms and legs, and severe pain that prevents the use of an arm or leg.
Provide a safe environment for sports. A poor playing field, unsafe gym sets, unsecured soccer goals, etc., can cause serious injury to children.
What children can do?
Be in proper condition to play the sport. Get a preseason physical exam.
Follow the rules of the game.
Wear appropriate protective gear.
Know how to use athletic equipment.
Avoid playing when very tired or in pain.
Make warm-ups and cool-downs part of your routine. Warm-up exercises, such as stretching or light jogging, can help minimize the chances of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury. They also make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible. Cool-down exercises loosen the muscles that have tightened during exercise.
April is National Youth Sports Safety Month. If your child is involved in youth sports, the National Athletic Trainer’s Association (NATA) advises parents to become educated about the risk of injuries, especially concussions and any other injury that is particularly associated with your child’s chosen sport to include meeting the Athletic Trainers on staff and if there are none available, advocate for one.
For more information on how to prevent sports injuries, visit Stop Sports Injuries at http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/.