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Important Steps to Prevent Sports-Related Injuries

The following is a break-down of what parents need to know, to help their children remain free from sports-related injuries.


Doctors treat around one million sports-related injuries in American school-age children every year. For parents, it is important to learn basic ways to avoid injury when their children practice sports, whether it’s at school or around the neighborhood.

First, parents should make sure that a child has been taught the complete rules of the sport clearly and thoroughly.

Second, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a pre-participation physical evaluation (PPE) be conducted for your child before competing in any sport. These examinations can range from simple checks to rigorous batteries of tests for extreme competition. For example, if your child wants to participate in long-distance running, it needs to be determined that his aerobic conditioning is strong enough to compete.

Third, understand the risk associated with each sport. Full-contacts sports, like football, have more injuries than non-contact sports like golf.

Below is a list of sports with the most injuries:

SPORT  Hospital Visits per   Year, Ages 5 to 14 
Basketball 180,000
Baseball 110,000
Football 200,000
Bicycling 212,000
Ice Hockey 20,000
Roller Skating 44,000
Skateboarding 66,000
Snowboarding 22,000
Soccer 88,000
Trampoline 65,000

Source: Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

The types and seriousness of injuries of course vary with different sports. Bicycling has a large number of injuries, but most are just scrapes and bruises. America’s favorite sport, baseball, on the other hand, has the highest rate of mortality, with four children between ages 5 and 15 dying per year in the United States. So, be aware of available statistics when considering which sport your child should practice.

Another point to consider with injury statistics is the level of participation. Basketball has a high number of injuries, but it also has the highest number of children playing, far exceeding soccer in the U.S. Also, keep in mind that full-contact sports are not always the most dangerous. Skateboarding is no-contact, yet it has a high incidence of injury.


The most important piece of equipment in any sport is headgear. Protecting the head from injury is paramount.

Next comes footwear. Proper fit, traction, and ankle support are just some of the issues to consider for preventing injuries when buying footwear. Most injuries to children involve sprained ankles and knees. Proper shoes, specific to each sport, minimize that concern.

An equipment checklist should be made for each sport and a separate bag should be prepared which contains all the equipment. Checks should be done before and after each practice or competition.


SPORT  Proper Equipment 
Basketball eye protection, elbow/knee pads,   mouth guard, high-top shoes
Baseball batting helmet; shin guards; elbow   guards; athletic supporters for males; mouth guard; sunscreen; cleats; hat;   detachable “breakaway bases” rather than traditional stationary   ones
Football helmet; mouth guard; shoulder   pads; athletic supporters for males; chest/rib pads; forearm, elbow, and   thigh pads; shin guards; proper shoes; sunscreen; water
Bicycling :shin guards, athletic supporters   for males, plastic cleats, sunscreen, water
Ice Hockey Helmet, mouth guard, neck guard,   shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, pants, shin guards, skaters, stick, puck,   bag
Roller Skating Helmet, elbow pads, mouthguard,   wrist supports, knee guards
Skateboarding Helmet, elbow pads, mouthguard,   wrist supports, knee guards
Snowboarding Helmet, goggles, gloves,   mouthguard
Soccer Shin guards, plastic cleats
Trampoline Safety harness


Preventing Muscle Injury Through Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs

Aerobic exercise needs to be preceded and followed by a period in which the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are warmed up and stretched, to lower the risk of injury to them during play. Proper stretching is one of the most effective ways to prevent sports-related injuries in children. Make warm-ups and cool-downs part of your child’s routine before and after sports participation.

Warm-up exercises, such as stretching and light jogging, can help minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury during sports. Warm-up exercises make the body’s tissues warmer and more flexible. Cool-down exercises loosen muscles that have tightened during exercise.

Severity of Injury

One of the most difficult decisions a parent faces is during game-time competition: assessing the severity of an injury to the child, who may not fully understand what has happened to him or her. And there is a fine line between playing through a little pain and discomfort, and putting your child at risk of further injury.

Many children are hesitant to fully state the pain they are experiencing because they don’t want to stop playing. It is the responsibility of parents and coaches to look for signs as to when a child is at risk. Below is a list of common sports injuries and the signs associated with them:

Injury Symptoms
Heat-Exhaustion Water depletion:   Excessive thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness. Salt   depletion: nausea and vomiting, frequent muscle cramps and dizziness.
Sprains Ankle sprains are   classified as grade 1, 2, or 3. A grade 1 sprain is defined as mild damage to   a ligament or ligaments without instability of the affected joint. A grade 2   sprain is considered a partial tear to the ligament, in which it is stretched   to the point that it becomes loose. A grade 3 sprain is a complete tear of a   ligament, causing instability in the affected joint. Bruising may occur   around the ankle. Pay close attention to swelling. If there is no significant   swelling and the child can jog in place with no pain, it is most likely safe   to continue play.
Concussion The terms mild brain   injury, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), mild head injury (MHI), minor   head trauma, and concussion are identical in meaning. A grade 1 concussion
presents post-traumatic amnesia longer than 30 minutes, and no loss of   consciousness. A grade 2 concussion presents loss of consciousness longer   than five minutes or amnesia lasting 30 minutes to 24 hours. A grade 3   concussion displays loss of consciousness longer than five minutes or amnesia   longer than 24 hours.
Overuse Overuse injuries   occur from stress to the bone, muscle, tendon, or ligament. Over time, these   stresses cause the tissue to weaken. Usually, it is a certain repetitive   activity that causes the injury. For example, a runner may have a stress   fracture in a foot bone from too much running. Tennis elbow is a common   overuse injury. Common symptoms of overuse injuries are: muscle aches and   soreness, swelling, decreased strength or speed, pain with exercise or   activity.


Treat Injuries with the R.I.C.E. Method

This is a well-established and popular method. It involves four steps: Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.

Rest: reduce or stop using the injured area for at least 24 hours. If you have a leg injury, use crutches.

Ice: put an ice pack or something cold on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 8 times a day. Use a cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice wrapped in a towel.

Compression: use elastic wraps, air casts or splints that can compress the injured ankle, knee, or wrist, to reduce swelling.

Elevation: Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling.

Inspect the Field of Play

Remove debris, water, rocks and other hazards from the field, rink or court. If playing outdoors, adults must consider weather conditions (e.g., rain, lightning) as part of their inspection. Inspect all sports equipment (goals, baskets, nets) on a regular basis and make sure the items meet standards for play. Make sure goals are securely anchored.

A few moments taken to help prevent injuries will go a long way towards keeping your child’s sporting experience one that is enjoyable, uplifting and produces long-lasting health and mind benefits, while cutting down on chances of mishaps.

By Lisa Pecos

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