We need to keep our young athletes safe by preventing sports injuries. Young athletes today are bigger and stronger, and they push themselves harder than ever before. With sports camps and more structured activities, kids today are increasingly likely to play their chosen sport year-round. But more time on the field brings a greater risk of experiencing sports-related injuries, including ACL and meniscus injuries in the knee, or injuries to the labrum or UCL in the shoulder and elbow.
Pediatric sports medicine expert R. Jay Lee provides these 10 tips to help keep your young athlete safe on the field and preventing sports injuries rather than seeing them on the sidelines:
1. Talk with your young athlete about preventing sports injuries.
Make sure your young athlete understands that he or she should talk to you and seek help if experiencing a pain or something that just doesn’t feel right. “In my practice, I always promote participating in pain-free sports and activities,” says Dr. Lee. “But some kids are tough and just push through pain, which can lead to a more serious condition that could have been prevented with early intervention.”
2. Get a preseason physical.
A preseason or back-to-school physical is a great way to determine if your young athlete is fit to play. “Sports physicals help assess any areas of concern for athletes before they start an activity, and in turn keeps them from further injuring themselves during play if a condition is present and needs to be treated,” says Dr. Lee.
3. Encourage cross-training and a variety of sports.
“I see kids today who play on two baseball or lacrosse teams on the same day or throughout the week and year. But it’s important for athletes to change the sports or activities they are doing so they are not continuously putting stress on the same muscles and joints,” warns Dr. Lee. Parents should consider limiting the number of teams their athlete is on at any given time and changing up the routine regularly so that the same muscles are not continuously overused.
4. Stress the importance of warming up.
Stretching is an important prevention technique that should become a habit for all athletes before starting an activity or sport. Dr. Lee suggests a mix of both static and dynamic stretching during warmups to help loosen the muscles and prepare them for play. Toe touches and stretches, where you hold the position for a certain amount of time, are considered static, while jumping jacks and stretches, where the body continues to move during stretching, are considered dynamic.
5. Make sure they rest.
Athletes of all ages need to rest between practices, games, and events. A lack of sleep and muscle fatigue predispose an athlete to injury, says Lee. In fact, the most common injuries seen in young athletes are overuse injuries too many sports and not enough rest. Along these same lines, parents should also plan an off-season for their athlete, giving him or her adequate time to recuperate before the next season.
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