Many of today’s youth are growing up with increasingly structured routines. From organized camps to after-school extra-curriculars, our children are engaging in a wide variety of activities year-round including sports such as hockey, soccer and martial arts – just to name a few. While being active is a very good thing, the more time spent playing sports means there’s greater risk of sports-related injuries.
So how can we ensure our teens and kids avoid the sidelines, and maximize their time on the field? Here are 10 great tips for preventing sports-related injuries.
#1. Get your child a pre-season physical
Regular medical check-ups are certainly necessary all year-round. But consider getting a pre-season physical before their specific sport gets underway. If your son or daughter plays hockey, book an appointment with his or her paediatrician in September to make sure everything is in good working order. If they play in a tennis league, book an exam with your family doctor in March to make sure they’re healthy for the season. A sports physical is an important opportunity to address areas of concern and, by staying proactive, you can show your child how to prevent injury during play if a condition is identified in the pre-season.
#2: Encourage a variety of sports
Many children will only stick with hockey throughout the year, or play on two baseball teams all season long. But it’s important for young athletes to change things up once in a while. This way, they’re not putting continuous stress on the same joints and muscles. Parents should limit the number of teams their child is on, and feel free to change up the routine regularly. This will prevent common overuse injuries, like tennis elbow or jumper’s knee.
#3: Explain the importance of warming up
If your child is like most, he or she will be eager to get out and hit the field. But stretching is an important way to prevent many sports-related injuries. A good warm-up session will allow him or her to loosen their muscles and get their blood circulation going. Make sure your child avoids static stretches, as stretching a cold muscle can cause injury. Instead, show them some dynamic stretches that involve continuous movements. An example is reaching down to touch your toes, then coming back up to reach the sky. Kicking the leg forward and back is also a good warm-up technique. If your child enjoys static stretches, then they can be done after the game when their bodies are more flexible.
#4: Provide a well-balanced, nutritional diet
Professional athletes are always eating healthy foods packed with essential nutrients. So why shouldn’t we ensure the same for our young athletes? Provide your child with a well-balanced diet that will keep them strong year-round. Foods that are rich in protein will help build muscle, so be on the lookout for lean meats, seafood and legumes. Because calcium is good for the bones, be sure to incorporate broccoli, kale, yogurts and cheeses into their daily intake. Vitamin D will help your little one absorb calcium better. So choose foods that are fortified with this important compound like salmon, tuna and many cereals.
#5: Emphasize hydration
If your child plays outdoors, then heat-related illness can be a real concern. Make sure your son or daughter always has a bottle of water on hand. Your child should be drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after the game. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, vomiting, confusion or fainting.
#6: Make sure your child gets plenty of rest
Rest is needed to help relax the muscles and restore the body. It is during sleep that your child can recuperate from a tough game. So make sure he or she is getting to bed early. Also ensure plenty of rest not only after a match, but between practices and other team-related events too. Your child will be more prone to injury if they’re suffering from muscle fatigue. Parents should also think ahead to the off-season and schedule adequate time to recuperate before the next season gets underway.
#7: Get injury-preventing equipment
Helmets, shin pads and well-soled shoes are crucial for preventing injury. Always invest in high-quality sports equipment when it comes to protecting your child. If you’re unsure how best to outfit your young athlete, speak to their coach beforehand so you can prepare properly.
#8: Emphasize proper technique
Whether it’s basketball or soccer, there’s a correct way and an incorrect way to play. Always emphasize proper technique throughout the season. For example, baseball players should be taught the right way to hold a bat so as to avoid wrist strain. And football players should learn the correct way to tackle without giving their opponent a concussion. By learning the proper techniques, your child can reduce the chances of injury and excel at their sport.
#9: Have regular talks with your child
Make sure your young athlete understands the importance of honesty and communication. Explain to your son or daughter that if they have a funny feeling in their calf, they must tell mom or dad right away -- even if they think it’s no big deal. If your son or daughter hurt their wrist at volleyball practice, they should make sure mom or dad are aware of the injury when they get home. By having regular talks with your child, you’ll be able to take the necessary precautions before symptoms get worse.
#10: Get help early
Should you recognize signs of injury in your child, be sure to see a health professional right away. If you notice your son or daughter is limping during practice or rubbing a leg during a match, pull them out of the activity early. Athletes will often alter their way of playing to minimize pain, but this can lead to more serious problems. From chiropractic care to physiotherapy, there are a number of treatments available to ensure your young athlete heals properly. So never be shy about taking them to see a healthcare professional as soon as there’s any discomfort.
At Physiomed, we see a lot of sports-related injuries. Our team of practitioners can assess your child’s condition, and provide a customized treatment plan based on their unique symptoms. Our focus is on restoring function and improving range of motion, so he or she can get back in the game.
For more information on preventing sports injuries or to book an assessment, contact us here.