By Susan Rzucidlo, registered nurse
April is Youth Sports Safety Month. Each year, more than 3.5 million children under the age of 15 are treated for sports injuries nationwide. Roughly half of these injuries are sustained in solo activities, while approximately one out of four participants in youth soccer, football or baseball has been injured at least once.
In team sports, most injuries occur during practices, not games. Parents should insist that kids wear the same protective gear, do the same warm-ups, and take all the same precautions when they practice as when they're getting ready for a game.
When we think of sports injuries, we think of dramatic tackles or falls or being hit in the head, but young athletes are also at risk for strains and repetitive motion injuries. Coaches may recommend certain types of warm-ups, not just to make kids better athletes, but to keep them from getting hurt. Nearly half of all sports injuries that occur (more than 5 million annually) are due to overuse.
Injuries can be prevented with proper training and helping your child learn to listen to their body. Incorporating strength training, increasing flexibility and improving core stability will also help minimize overuse injuries. Learn about what injuries can occur with a sport by visiting Stop Sports Injuries: Keeping Kids in the Game for Life at www.stopsportsinjuries.org online.
Participating in a variety of sports and activities can help to use different muscle groups and reduce injuries, especially for young children. With stress on a child’s developing body, an injury can occur and if not managed correctly can keep a child from participating in the sport for the physical activity and for the fun of being on a team.
Safe Kids Dauphin County recommends these precautions for all children playing or practicing any individual or team sport:
-- Before signing up for a sport, get a general physical exam.
-- Warm up before games and practices.
-- Always wear appropriate protective gear that is properly sized and adjusted during practices and games.
-- Make sure responsible adults know and enforce the safety rules of the sport, are present to provide supervision, and are trained in first aid and CPR. Make sure the field is in safe condition.
-- Never “play through” an injury. Get immediate help from a coach or trainer. The child should not return to play until cleared by their physician and a plan is developed to prevent further injury.
-- Follow the rules. In most sports, they are based not only on sportsmanship but also safety.
-- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or sports drinks before and during the activity, and rest frequently during hot weather.
For more information about sports safety, call Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital Injury Prevention Programs and Safe Kids Dauphin County at 717-531-7233.
Susan Rzucidlo is coordinator of the Dauphin County Safe Kids Coalition and the pediatric trauma program nurse manager at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.