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Oregon Family Magazine

Playing Safe: Preventing Sports Injuries

07/28/2022 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Participating in sports is a great way for children to exercise their bodies, develop self-confidence and learn to work with their peers. While sports provide many health benefits to growing bodies, about 3.5 million sports-related injuries occur in kids each year.

A recent multi-year study found that the injuries requiring an Emergency Department visit were most often sustained while playing football, basketball, baseball and softball, and bicycling. 

The good news is that many sports injuries in children are preventable. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends kids follow these tips to reduce the risk of getting hurt:

  • Wear the correct gear. It’s important for kids to wear properly fitting helmets, pads, mouthpieces, face guards, eye-wear and protective cups when playing sports.
  • Play safe. Strict rules against dangerous play, including headfirst sliding in baseball and softball, spearing in football and checking in hockey, should be enforced.
  • Take time off from practice and games. Despite the belief that the more a child plays, the better they will become, be sure your child is taking needed breaks. They should take off at least one day per week and one month per year from training for a particular sport. Overuse injuries are common and can sideline a player who pushes too hard.
  • Use proper techniques. Good coaching and reinforcing correct techniques can decrease injuries to athletes.
  • Increase flexibility. Conditioning exercises and stretching before and after games can strengthen children’s muscles and improve flexibility.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after play. This helps young athletes avoid heat illness, along with wearing light clothing and taking breaks during high temperatures and humidity.

Youth sports is a wonderful setting to promote good health, make friends, learn and have fun. However, the pressure to win can also create emotional stress for kids. Remember to focus on your child’s enjoyment of the sport and acknowledge them when they give their best effort. If you have questions about preventing sports injuries, talk with your pediatrician.