Watching the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night and seeing all the hits and trips and a player (Nathan Horton) heading off to the locker room due to an injury, I was reminded of when my second son wanted to play hockey and I had (quiet, restrained, internal) hysterics about his cute cherub face getting smashed against the boards.
So I did a little research, and as my boys have grown and played more (and more, and more) sports, I've kept up to date on sports injuries. I used to worry about my players breaking a bone (which has happened) or having a severe muscle injury (done that, too). But more and more, we're all learning about the very scary danger of repeated concussions.
(And as a hockey mom, I'll note that hockey doesn't have the most injuries in youth sports- that title goes to gymnastics. Football has the most concussions.)
What can we do to reduce injuries for our sports loving and playing children? Here are the best tips from the leading sports injury prevention organizations:
- Be pro-active about safety issues; learn about the risks posed by the sport your child plays. A great resource is the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), which has aggregated data on the frequency of sports injuries, by age group.
- Insist that coaches receive training in first-aid and injury prevention and bring a properly stocked first-aid kit to all games and practices. The National Alliance for Youth Sports offers a concussion training course for coaches. Insist that your sports club/organization require this training for all their coaches.
- According to the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, more than half of sports injuries occur during practice. SAFE KIDS USA reports that figure as 62%. Make sure your little athletes wear ALL the correct equipment, properly sized. And hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
- Don't think your child is going to start at a high level. Allow time to build up endurance and conditioning. Practice the skills and form needed to play safely.
- Guard against overuse injuries; don’t let your child play the same sport year-round. This is hard when your child plays competitively, but their little bodies need a break.
- Demand safe fields and equipment, such as anchored goals and emergency telephones. Does your field/park have lightning detectors? Ask about the weather policy of your child’s league or club; if it doesn’t have one, adopt your own.
- Protect your child from a dangerous coach. Ask your club to run background checks on coaches. Make sure your coaches are appropriately certified according to the governing body of the sport.
As parents, we need to do our part to help try to prevent injuries and, if one occurs, to ensure that it is treated promptly and properly. We also need to make sure we don't rush our little players, and ensure that appropriate time is given for recuperation before heading back onto the playing field.
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