Parents want to protect their children from harm as much as possible. Growing up is marked by rapid changes, high energy, and little minds that may not understand exactly how their bodies work. While some injuries in the years a child is growing up are inevitable, there are ways we can protect kids, especially in regards to playing sports.
Don’t Specialize in One Sport
Growing trends in parenting suggest in order for a child to have any chance of playing in college or to receive a scholarship to play, any natural aptitude for one sport should be fostered into specializing in said sport as early as possible. This line of thinking is flawed for a number of reasons. First, the repetitive use of only certain sets of muscles increases the risk of fatigue and stress. Additionally, neurodevelopment can be stunted when movements found across different sports or activities is not used. "During the early stages as kids are still growing, we want to make sure they are developing their motor skills in many different ways," says Michelle Cappello, a physical therapist and clinical director at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals Sports Medicine Center for Young Athletes. "That way, they will play sports longer and live healthier lifestyles." Further, breaks from sports, allowing kids to have physical exercise through play and spontaneous activity provides time to physically and mentally rest.
Research the Coach and Program
Frequently, coaches of youth sports lack training and expertise in the sport they are leading, often they are volunteer parents. Discuss the goals of the program and the coach before committing to a full season. Youth sports should be focused on exposure to the game and providing a fun environment to learn more. Coaches who are highly competitive, focusing primarily on winning and only allowing “star-athletes” play, should raise caution for parents, even parents of the stronger athletes. Seek out programs where attention is given to build every child. Once they are older or playing in more competitive programs, communicate with coaches and trainers to ensure focus is placed on your child as a whole, not just as an athlete.
Allow Rest and Recovery
The growing bodies of kids have numerous needs. From rest to fluids to fuel, it takes a lot to keep up with their activity levels, especially during higher levels of activity. Michelle Cappello also states that kids with less than 8 hours of sleep each night are 1.7 times more likely to be injured and dehydrated muscles are 20% less strong than those well taken care of with plenty of fluids. Help your kids make good choices in regards to water intake, consuming protein along with fruits and vegetables, and taking time to sit during breaks of longer game days or practices.
A lot of children, and let’s face it adults, prefer to skip-over the warm-up routine. Warming up isn’t as exciting or active as we want, so it can be hard to see the benefits of using 10-15 minutes to slowly prepare our body for more activity. However, a cold body, with muscles and joints which are still tight, is a body more likely to be injured and can be injured in very serious ways. Find a fun routine with activity and movement which allows your young athlete to prepare for practice or a game. Have different team mates take turns leading the warm up or find fun songs to pair with their exercises.
Focus on Fun
Listen to your child and what they want to do, before the season and during. You may have played a specific sport growing up and want to share the love of that sport with your child, but committing to a team needs to involve a sport they are genuinely interested in. If they are uncertain, find a low pressure league or week long sports camp for them to learn more without the commitment of several months for a season. If they begin showing signs of resistance to a sport they were once interested in, evaluate what may be taking place. If the demands are too high, injuries can occur for even the most careful athletes.
We here at Integrity Urgent Care want to support all of our local athletes in doing their best and staying healthy. To receive a pre season physical or evaluate for a possible injury, come see us today. We can provide the health services you need. Call or visit any one of our four convenient locations daily from 8am to 8pm.