With the summer months in full swing, kids are outside playing in organized and unorganized sports. Playing any kind of sport is good for children as it gets them outside and moving, but it also teaches them how to work as a team and can boost their self-esteem. But each of these comes with the some risk of injury. Here are some great ways to help your kids stay safe while playing.
Start With Proper Safety Equipment
The first step towards keeping your kids safe is to make sure they have the proper safety equipment for the sport that they are playing. Depending what sport your child is playing, the combination of equipment will vary. Before buying any gear, ask your child’s coach about what is required to play that specific sport.
Always Try On Safety Gear Before Buying
When buying any helmets or pads, bring your child with you, so they can try on any of the gear. This way, the pads will fit comfortably, while still giving them the range of motion they will need to play the game. And if the equipment is worn properly, it reduces the possibility of injury. Also, if the gear is comfortable to wear, your child will be more willing to wear and keep their protection on during every game and practice.
Remember That Helmets Are Critical
Helmets are the most common of safety equipment, as they can be used from anything from riding bicycles to playing football to playing baseball. Helmets are vitally important in many sports for protecting the head and even the neck. And when worn properly, they can prevent head and brain damage. For many types of helmets, there are U.S. government safety standards that can help you ensure you’re getting a helmet that will sufficiently protect your child.
Protect Teeth With Mouthguards
Another critical piece of safety gear is the mouth gear — a piece of safety equipmentrecommended by dentists and doctors for many sports. It protects not only the teeth, but the lips and gums while playing sports. Usually, this is worn during most contact sports like football and basketball. While you can buy a mouthguard at any sport store, those are usually one size fits all and may not fit your child’s mouth properly. Your best option is to have one custom made by your dentist that is an exact fit to your child’s mouth. But if you feel that your child might be more prone to mouth trauma or if your child has braces, it is best to get a mouth protection just in case.
Don’t Forget Other Protective Gear
Here are some other protection gear that a child may need when playing sports:
- Protective eye gear
- Chin straps
- Wrist/elbow pads
- Shin guards
- Protection for the nether regions: Boys especially need a protection for their these regions.
Use Proper Stretching And Warm-Ups
Proper protection is not enough. To make sure that children don’t pull muscles or injure themselves, proper stretching is important to prevent injury. Here are some terrific exercises to keep your child limber and injury-free. The simple act of stretching can release muscle tension, making it easier for limbs to move and keeps limbs limber, thus preventing injuries. So, make sure that there is time set aside before every practice and game for some stretching.
Here are some easy and effective stretches that your child can do:
- Stretch your neck: Roll your head forward keeping your shoulders down. Roll your neck over to one shoulder and then back down to the center and then back up to your other shoulder. Do this several times to loosen up your neck muscles.
- Stretch your shoulder: Place your arm across your chest. Hook your forearm with the other arm. Pull your arm for a few seconds until you feel your shoulder feels stretched. Repeat this with your other arm.
- Stretch your quadriceps: While standing, raise your heel up to your rear-end and grab your foot. Hold this position for a few seconds. Place the foot back down and repeat with your other foot.
- Stretch your hamstrings: Sit on the floor, and put one leg out. Reach for your toes and hold for a few seconds. Repeat with your other leg. Then place both legs out and reach for your toes.
These stretches can help keep limbs loose and prevent cramping and injury. If the coach doesn’t lead stretches before practice or a game, you can either stretch with your child beforehand or even volunteer to lead stretches of all the kids on your child’s team.
Learn The Proper Technique
Proper technique isn’t just helpful to win the game — it’s very important for avoiding injury. In many sports, improper techniques can lead to an increased risk of injury or accidents for players. Talk with your child’s coach or educate yourself of the correct techniques for the sport they are playing.
Drink For Proper Hydration
Staying hydrated is a great way to keep your child healthy and safe. Your child should have at least one water bottle, either on their person or at the bench. Encourage behavior of frequent water drinking before, during, and after practice or a game. Doing this will reduce the possibility of fatigue, overheating, and cramps.
Especially during the summer, staying hydrated is very important on those hot, long days out on the field. If possible, take frequent breaks for water.
Play By The Rules
Ensure your child (and the children they are playing with) know and follow the rules of the game. Many sports rules are specifically designed to keep the players safe, and breaking the rules puts the players at a higher risk of injury. Sports rules for most children’s sports are available online, at your library, through the team’s coach, or can be ordered online (for example, Little League sells rule books on their website).
Don’t Play When Injured
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers simple advice on this point: “Stop the activity if there is pain.” Though it might seem like common sense, many kids (and adults) will continue to play, even if they are hurt. The reason for this is not because they don’t feel the pain, but it’s more that either they don’t want to let the team down or they don’t think their injury is that bad. No matter how insignificant the injury, make sure your child’s injury is tended to and ensure they don’t play until they are fully healed.