Back-to-school tips for preventing sports injuries

The start of a new school year means fall sports season is here as well. It’s important to be smart about returning to sports to help your child prevent injuries. Here are 12 tips to prevent problems when your child is back on the field:

  1. Stay active. If your child is not participating in organized sports over the summer, help them stay active to maintain some cardiovascular fitness.  This way, it will be easier for them to get back into shape for the fall season.
  2. Build slowly. Sports can be demanding. Kids should not go from doing nothing to doing high demand exercise without some prep work. One week is not enough to “get into shape.” It’s best to build slowly over several weeks to prepare.
  3. Eat well. It’s easy to slip into bad eating habits over the summer. But that makes it hard for your child to get back to a good fitness level needed for sports. Sticking with good eating habits all year will give them the building blocks for a healthy body and excellent sports performance.
  4. Diversify. In today’s sports landscape, youth athletes have far more options for participating in their favorite sport all year round.  Single-sport youth athletes have a much higher rate of overuse injury and burnout. Studies show that participating in different sports throughout the year can improve performance in the primary sport more than practicing in one sport all year. Your child can learn multiple skills from other sports that can contribute to their primary sport.
  5. Sports should be fun. Approximately 6 percent of youth athletes participate in collegiate level sports. But the chance of your child having a career playing sports is less than one in 1,000. The other 999 kids will use their education for their livelihood.  So focus on the fun of sports, teaching teamwork and other excellent life skills.
  6. Be supportive. Winning is fun but it’s not everything. It’s important to be a supportive parent and cheer for the great plays. Enjoyment and participation are far more important to your child in the long run. Emphasize the good efforts and improvements over the season. Encourage participation regardless of athletic ability.
  7. Incorporate injury prevention routines into the warm up. This includes proper hydration, stretching and light cardio. You can find more sport specific recommendations at www.stopsportsinjuries.org.
  8. Don’t push through pain. Youth athletes should not have chronic pain.  A sore muscle or bruise is normal, but routine pain is not. You should talk to a doctor if your child develops an overuse injury.
  9. Get an annual sports physical.  Serious injury or sports-related death is extremely rare but often recognizable to a trained medical professional. An annual sports physical is an important part of getting your child ready to play.
  10. Check your equipment. Kids grow between seasons. Equipment wears out in time. Using improperly fitting or broken equipment is a recipe for injury.
  11. Stretch both before and after participation. A good warm up and a good cool down are equally important.
  12. Hydrate! The start of fall sports is often at the end of the summer, when the weather is still very hot. Proper hydration and temperature control is crucial for prevention of heat exhaustion and muscle fatigue.

Injury prevention and knowledge about what precautions kids should take is just as important for coaches as it is for parents and young athletes. If you notice a change in your child’s technique, such as limping when running, rubbing a leg during activity or grasping a wrist, you should pull the athlete out of play. If you see that the problem continues, consider getting an assessment for your child before returning to play. Make sure your young athlete is feeling good and not suffering through an injury. Kids should enjoy sports. So go out there, play and have fun!

Author

Ben Petre, MD, is a sports medicine doctor and surgeon at Anne Arundel Medical Orthopedics. He can be reached at 410-268-8862. For more information visit aamcortho.com.