Preventing youth sports injuries

"Each year, more than 3.5 million sports-related injuries in youth under age 15 are treated in hospitals, doctors' offices, clinics, ambulatory surgery centers and hospital emergency rooms in the United States, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission."

Two of my children.
Lisa Mason

As a youth coach and a mother to five, I have seen my fair share of youth sports injuries. It can be scary for parents to see their child get hurt. And as a coach, we try our best to prevent injuries in the first place. Parents and coaches alike can work together to help reduce the number of injuries that young people receive while playing sports.

Here are some guidelines on how to do that:

Accurate Rest

It's very important that children do not play or practice in sports when they are tired or did not get enough rest the night before. Parents with children in sports should ensure their child gets adequate rest the night before practices and games, and coaches should avoid playing young athletes who appear tired or sleepy.

Safety Equipment

Proper safety equipment should always be worn, and you should be sure that all players understand how to use the equipment and that all equipment is on and adjusted properly. Coaches and parents should inspect gear regularly for any damages and to be sure nothing is broken or worn out, and that all safety equipment is working properly.

Follow the Rules

Players need to be taught to always follow the rules of the game. Coaches have a responsibility to teach and enforce these rules, and parents should support this as well. Never encourage your child athlete to bend or break a rule even "just this once," as this is how serious injuries occur.

Knowledge of the Equipment

Make sure your player knows how to use the equipment in the sport properly. Knowing how to store and care for it is also important. Knowledge of the equipment both on or off the court/field is very helpful and helps prevent sports injuries in young people.

Proper Warm-ups

Proper warm-ups help ensure growing athlete do not have injuries. The bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments of children are still growing and young athletes are often more prone to injuries because of this. Proper warm-ups help the body get ready for the practice or activity and reduces injuries such as sprains, strains or twists.

Physical Condition

It's important that you are able to recognize the physical conditioning of a player. Avoid judging players by their age alone and also consider physical size, ability and past experience. Sometimes a smaller, younger player who has more athletic ability will be better at an exercise than an older player with less experience. Don't assume that older children will be fine if they are not experienced.

These tips will not guarantee you to have no injuries, but they will reduce the risks involved in youth sports. Play smart and play safe!

Lisa was a track athlete and basketball player in school who now coaches youth soccer, basketball and softball and enjoys golf, running, rock climbing and other sports as well as takes a vested interest in health and nutrition for athletes of all ages and experience levels.

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Updated Wednesday, Oct 12, 2011