Young athletes today, inspired by their favorite professional athletes, are pushing themselves harder than ever before. While this is fun for parents to watch, an increase an athleticism brings a greater risk of experiencing sports-related injuries. At Pediatric Urgent Care, we prefer to see your athlete out on the field rather than sitting on the sidelines. To make sure your athlete can keep doing what he/she loves, follow these guidelines for preventing sports injuries:
Talk to your young athlete
One of the most effective ways to prevent short-term and long-term injuries is communication. Make sure your athlete understands that he or she should let you know immediately if experiencing pain or something that just doesn’t feel “right.” Kids these days are tough and are happy to push through the pain if it means getting to play; however, this can lead to a more serious condition down the road that could have easily been prevented with early intervention. Remember, communication is key!
Get a preseason physical
A physical is a great way to determine if your athlete is fit to play. Your physician can asses any areas of concern for athletes before they start a season, keeping them from further injuring themselves during play. During your physical, the doctor or youth dietician can help you and your kiddo plan a well-balanced diet, which will help them stay strong and avoid sports injuries.
Stress the importance of warming up
Stretching is a vital part of preventing sports injuries. It’s especially important for young athletes to develop good habits before starting an activity or sport. We suggest a mix of both static and dynamic stretching during warmups to help wake up and loosen the muscles and prepare them for activity. Toe touches and stretches where you hold the position for a certain amount of time are considered static while jumping jacks and leg swings are considered dynamic. If you need help putting together an effective warm-up plan, don’t hesitate to ask us or your coaches.
Rest is a good thing
Athletes of ALL ages and levels need to rest between practices, games, and events! A lack of sleep and muscle fatigue are huge factors that can lead to sports injuries. In fact, the most common injuries in youth athletes are overuse injuries, which are usually a result of too much activity and not enough rest. Parents of young athletes should encourage rest during the season and plan an “offseason” allowing for adequate time to recuperate.
Provide a healthy, well-balanced diet
There’s no question how important it is for all athletes to eat a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. It’s helpful to encourage a regular eating schedule, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the same time each day. Additionally, in sports like wrestling where an athlete’s weight is a big deal, it’s imperative that parents make sure their athletes are following safe eating habits.
Especially in the summer, heat-related illness is a major concern for all athletes. Parents should make sure their children (and the entire team) have enough water before, during and after play. Along with a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated helps prevent fatigue and subsequently injuries. If you do notice signs of heat-related illness such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion or fainting bring your child into PUCNC immediately.
Have the proper equipment
Protective equipment is not just for the show! Items such as helmets, pads, and cleats are very important for sports injury prevention. Parents should consider talking with coaches before the season starts so they have enough time to properly outfit their child before the season starts. Remember, proper equipment is important for recreational activities as well, such as riding a bike, rollerblading or skateboarding.
Emphasize proper technique
In every sport, there is a correct and wrong way of doing things – the correct way usually is designed to avoid injuries. For example, young football players should be taught the proper way to tackle an opponent to avoid concussions and young baseball players should be taught the proper way to throw to avoid shoulder injuries. The most important thing to remember is that it only takes one time of doing something the wrong way for an injury to occur.
Recognize injury and intervene early
We’ve seen a number of young athletes who have fairly serious injuries and didn’t do anything about them, allowing the damage to progress. The best advice we can give is to see a doctor early to help prevent long-term damage and to make sure your young athlete can keep playing for as long as possible. If you notice a change in your athlete’s technique such as a limp, address the situation immediately. Even young athletes know to alter the way they do things when in pain, but this always leads to more serious injuries. Always err on the side of caution and seek an assessment for your athlete before returning to the game.
When to see a doctor for a sports injury
- Consistent pain during or after sports
- Persistent or new pain or swelling around a joint
- Recurrent instability – joints “give out”
- Painful pops (usually non-painful pops are OK)
- Pain that does not respond to a period of rest
- Broken Bones
- Affected Range of Motion
If an emergency does occur, Pediatric Urgent Care of Northern Colorado is available for you and your young athlete.