It’s getting warmer and spring/summer sports are starting up again. While sports are great for physical activity, they can also lead to injuries. Here are a few tips to help child athletes prevent sports injuries.
Make sure that your child warms up before each sporting practice or game. A warm up is a significant way to reduce sport-related injuries. A good warm up should last five to 10 minutes and involve stretching and moving muscles to prepare for strenuous activity. Start off slow and then increase the warm up speed to give the muscles time to adapt before going full force.
It’s important to warm up, but it’s also important to cool down after physical activity. A five to 10 minute cool down consisting of walking or some other gentle form of exercise lets the heart rate fall to a normal pace. This helps bring oxygen to the muscles and prevents stiffness, allowing muscles to recover.
Provide the correct protective equipment for the sport your child is playing. Depending on the sport, your child may need head gear, shin pads, footwear or other protective clothing. These will help protect against brain damage, twisted ankles and other injuries. Protective equipment is especially important when playing contact sports.
Technique is also important when playing a sport. Many sports have certain techniques that minimize the risk of injury. Have your children learn the proper techniques to greatly reduce the risk of sport-related injuries. This is also important in the gym. Make sure experts are on hand when using unfamiliar or heavy equipment.
Spot an injury and get help early on. Often, children continue to play sports after an injury has occurred. This will cause the damage to progress and become worse. If you notice a change in your athlete’s technique like throwing differently, rubbing a body part during activity or a limp when running, stop them from participating right away and seek medical attention if the problem persists.
Encourage your child to cross-train and play a variety of sports. Playing the same sports or doing the same activities can continuously put stress on the same muscles and joints. Change these up to make sure these body parts are not overworked. Also, consider limiting the amount of teams an athlete is on as to not increase injury risk.
Keep your child hydrated before, during and after activity. Staying hydrated is important, especially during hot and humid days. Watch for signs of heat-related illnesses like fatigue, nausea, vomiting and fainting.
Your child should also have a healthy diet. A well-balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and dairy helps to prevent injuries. Consuming this diet on a regular eating schedule helps children stay healthy and provides energy for sports. Make sure your children are following safe eating habits, especially when participating in sports like wrestling that put emphasis on their weight.
Lastly, make sure your child does not over-reach. Tell your child to listen to his or her body and know its physical limits. If your child is starting a new sport, he or she should begin slowly to avoid pulling or straining muscles since they are not used to the new movements. It is important to build up stamina and strength gradually to avoid injury.
If you would like more information about sports injuries and how to prevent them, contact your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician. If you are in need of a pediatrician for your child or a primary care physician for yourself, call 317-880-8687 or visit www.eskenazihealth.edu/doctors.
Nydia Nunez-Estrada, M.D.
Eskenazi Health Urgent Care East