Youth sports is almost a rite of passage in this country. More than 70 percent of American children participate in some kind of organized youth sports activity during their childhood. These activities provide opportunities to learn important lessons, develop skills, and build lifelong friendships.
But each year, nearly 4 million children ages 14 and under also suffer from sports-related injuries. It is estimated that as many as 20 percent of children participating in sports are injured each year.
Every day, from soccer fields to ice rinks, millions of youths participate in sporting activities. Participating in sports builds the body and mind but can also result in injury if the proper safety precautions are ignored. Young athletes are at an increased risk for injury because their bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments are still growing. This doesn’t mean, though, that sports injuries are a given. There are many things we can do to help keep our young athletes healthy and safe.
Sports Safety Tips
The risk of injury should not keep a child from participating in sports. Instead, parents and coaches need to take the proper precautions by following safety guidelines and providing the proper protective equipment to keep young athletes safe during play. Parents, coaches and children are encouraged to follow these safety precautions:
- Know and follow the rules of the sport.
- Wear proper apparel and protective gear.
- Know how to safely and properly use athletic equipment.
- Warm up and stretch before and after playing to prevent injury.
- Drink plenty of healthy fluids before and during playing to prevent dehydration.
- Do not take part when extremely tired or in pain.
- Take a time out and alert an adult immediately if injury or illness is suspected.
If Injury Occurs
Prompt treatment can often prevent a minor injury from turning into something worse. The first step is to use RICE therapy (rest, ice, compress and elevate). If a child displays any of the following signs, he or she should visit their doctor for a thorough examination:
- Inability or decreased ability to play
- Visible deformity
- Severe pain that prevents the use of an arm or leg
- Symptoms which persist or affect athletic performance
Most sports-related injuries are preventable. The following are steps coaches and parents can take to help reduce the chances of an injury occurring:
- Enroll your child in programs where you know an adult will be monitoring the event.
- Be sure your child uses the proper safety equipment.
- Teach your child to start by warming up and stretching.
- Remind your child to cool down afterwards.
Keep your kids safe as they sweat, play and get a good workout.
New Legislation Protects Young Athletes
In addition to teaching your children good sports habits, you should also be aware of new legislation enacted to protect our young athletes. The Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 was signed into law on February 14, 2018. Among other things it expands the list of mandatory reporters to include any adult authorized to interact with minor or amateur athletes at amateur sports facilities or events. The Act also requires amateur sports organizations to provide regular training on prevention and reporting of child abuse to all adult members of the organization, as well as establishing prevention policies such as limiting one-on-one interaction without another adult present.
While these new changes may present challenges for some organizations, notably those that rely on volunteers, it’s important to recognize that they are in place to protect our youth and ensure them a positive youth sports experience. For more information and help on creating and implementing these programs, download an official resource guide here, and resources for youth sports abuse prevention programs here. By being involved parents, teachers and sports mentors, we can ensure that all youth have a positive and fun sports experience, and that we are keeping our young athletes healthy and safe.
By the way, May is Physical Fitness and Sports Month, so get out and get active now.