Published: Mar. 27, 2009
Updated: Mar. 28, 2011
If your children play sports, you’ve probably seen a few bumps, bruises, strains, and sprains -- or worse.
While preventing injuries in active kids is almost impossible, William E. Garrett Jr., MD, PhD, orthopaedic surgeon and team physician for the Duke and U.S. national soccer teams, offers some advice for keeping mishaps to a minimum.
The basics involve choosing the right team for your child. Do the coaches and referees insist on the proper equipment for the sport, and are they knowledgeable about proper warm-up, heat illnesses, and rest and nutrition off the field? Do they strictly enforce rules that prevent dangerous play?
It’s also important to do a quick check on the adults’ intentions behind childhood sports. “Sports can be a great socializing tool for children,” says pediatric sports medicine specialist Deborah Squire, MD, “but adults’ expectations of performance often bring too much structure and pressure into what should be a fun time for kids.”
Parents should be mindful of their children’s physical limits, she says, whether they’re new to rough-and-tumble sports or strong athletes. “When children begin to show promise in a sport, there’s a strong tendency on the part of coaches and parents to push them to focus on it more exclusively than they might choose to do on their own,” Squire says, adding that kids are as vulnerable as adults to repetitive motion and overuse injuries.
Because girls run, jump, and land differently than boys do, they sustain acute injuries more often on a per-exposure basis. In sports like basketball and soccer, girls’ overall injury rates can be from two to eight times higher than those for boys, particularly between ages 11 and 17.
For example, ACL injuries are much more common in females across the board. “Injury-prevention programs for athletes of both genders are being created and improved throughout the country,” says Garrett, “with a number of teams working with physical therapists and athletic trainers to address this issue.”
For any kid and any sport, Garrett says the following tips can keep sports mishaps to a minimum:
In the final tally, the goals that really matter are the ones your child scores off the field -- nurturing a healthy, growing body and developing a good attitude about health, fitness, and safety.