When kids and teens play sports, they can improve their mental and physical health, learn to work with others and build coordination and confidence. But safety is often a consideration. According to Safe Kids, more than 3.5 million children under age 15 receive medical treatment each year due to sports injuries, and interestingly, 62 percent of injuries from organized sports occur during practice, not games.
Robert Pedowitz, DO, family physician, athlete, coach and father of three boys, provides this safety advice for parents and young athletes.
When is it safe for kids to start sports?
I don’t think there’s an age too young as long as parents feel comfortable with the program and coaching. Some kids start with fundamentals as early as age 4, which is fine as long as they are not being forced to be too skilled or competitive at that young age.
How many sports should my child play?
Beyond letting kids gravitate to a sport they like and can handle, it’s really a matter of what works for the athlete and family. I tell parents that kids need time to recover and recuperate, so I recommend having at least a day off a week to do other things.
Should I let my child play a high-impact sport?
Before participating in any sport, start with the appropriate research and preparation. Most sports are very safe overall. Injuries can result from some sporting activities, such as soccer, cycling, cheerleading, baseball, wrestling and football, but many injuries are preventable. Precautions should be taken for any contact sport, and that includes understanding safe practices and wearing protective gear that fits correctly. Ultimately, if you’re not comfortable with the safety of the activity, that’s your decision and you can help the athlete find something else they’ll enjoy.
How can injuries be prevented?
Here are four safety tips:
- Make sure your child understands the rules of their sport and that good training is necessary to stay safe and strong while competing.
- Stress the importance of stretching and loosening up before and after a sporting activity – and be sure the coach makes it part of practices and games.
- Athletes should drink plenty of water or a healthy sports drink throughout practice and games to hydrate adequately. Healthy calories – such as fruits and vegetables balanced with proteins and some carbohydrates – are also important to keep up with the body’s demands.
- A growing child should get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Going to bed at midnight and waking at 6 a.m. will not give the body enough rest to function well in any area.
Sporting activities should be viewed as fun and a great outlet to provide social interaction and promote good health. Whether a young person is participating in competitive or recreational sports, learning the rules and taking time for self-care goes a long way in ensuring their safety.
To find a family medicine physician at CentraState, visit centrastate.com/find-a-physician or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).