Kids and teens who participate in sports will improve their physical fitness, establish lifelong healthy habits and they are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to non-athletes. They are also less likely to drop out of school and engage in risky behaviors including smoking, drugs, sex, and criminal activity. Participation in sports can lead to better performance in school, increased self-esteem, and other benefits. However, there are risks that come with sports participation and parents need to know what to look for to ensure their child stays safe.
Injuries and burnout are two of the most common consequences associated with sports participation. More serious consequences include dehydration, heat illness, concussions, complications from sickle cell trait, and death due to sudden cardiac arrest.
There is no way to prevent all possible injuries however, there are steps parents and coaches can take to ensure their children have a decreased risk of getting injured. Parents and coaches should follow the following guidelines to help prevent over-training and decrease risk of injuries while also helping prevent burnout:
- Children (and adults) should perform 10 minutes of a dynamic warm-up every day before practice. A dynamic warm-up is a series of movements that stretches muscles, increases range of motion and activates the nervous system.
- Have children engage in an age-appropriate and sport specific strength and conditioning program. A good strength and conditioning coach can examine a child’s movement pattern for potential biomechanics issues (movement patterns), muscle imbalances and tight muscles – all of which can increase one’s risk for injury. Movement patterns are learned and reinforced through practice and when children were dollops constantly reinforce poor motor patterns they can increase their injury risk.
- Children should take rest breaks when necessary during practice.
- Give kids at least two days of rest each week. Rest is important both physically and psychologically.
- Increase training load (time, intensity etc.) by a maximum of 10% per week.
- Pay close attention to your child and be on the alert for pain, fatigue, a drop in school performance or a decreased interest in playing their sport.
- Young kids shouldn’t play one sport year-round. Noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, MD recommends kids take at least 2 months off per year, and preferably 3 – 4 months to avoid overuse and repetitive motion injuries.
- Children should wear appropriate protective gear including helmets, eye protection, mouth guards, pads, and protective cups for boys.
For sport-specific injury prevention tips and information on protective gear, check out the Andrews Institute, MedlinePlus and the Sports Injury Prevention tab under STOP Sports Injuries.
Many of the steps for the prevention of injuries can also help prevent burnout. Parents can get caught up in the competition, emotional drive for parenting validation and potential for monetary gains and therefore need to constantly assess how they are interacting with their children. Parents should pay attention and honor their child’s desires (do they want to play tennis or is this your dream?) as well as count their child’s physical and mental health as the number one priority.
children’s sports health
Sports should be a fun part of childhood and adolescence. Parents, coaches, and athletes should take every step necessary to keep sports fun and enjoyable while also preventing injuries, dehydration, heat illness, concussions and complications from sickle cell trait.
Dehydration can leave an athlete feeling tired while reducing their ability to focus. It can also lead to an increase in core body temperature, strain the cardiovascular system, reduce blood flow to muscles and increase risk of heat stroke and death. Risk for dehydration is greater in hot, humid environments and at higher altitude. Every year we hear about a high school student who dies due to dehydration or over hydration. Kids with larger body sizes have an increased risk of dehydration particularly when they are practicing with pads and helmets in the heat because equipment can trap heat making it difficult to dissipate the heat their body is producing.
How can you prevent dehydration? Thirst is not always a good indicator of hydration needs, particularly in children. Coaches should give kids a 5 to 10 minute rest and fluid break after every 25 to 30 minutes of activity. Sports drinks and water should be provided and when exercising for a prolonged period of time (over 1 hour) or in the heat, children should be encouraged to consume a sports drink that contains sodium. Sodium is critical to help their bodies retain the fluid that they are drinking. Over-consumption of fluids that do not contain enough sodium, like water, can dilute blood sodium leading to a dangerous, even deadly, condition called hyponatremia. Coaches should also monitor children to make sure that they are drinking.
When the temperature and humidity are high rest and fluid breaks should be scheduled after every 15-20 minutes of activity. And when the temperature and humidity are very high, practice should be canceled or moved indoors.
Symptoms of dehydration:
– dry mouth
– being irritable or cranky
– poor athletic performance
– excessive fatigue
Heat cramps may lead to intense pain and muscle spasms. Though the name includes the word key, heat cramps can occur in any sport including ice-skating and swimming. Prevention includes adequate conditioning, getting acclimated to changes in heat and humidity, and providing adequate fluid including a sports drink that contains sodium. Treatment involves replacing fluid and sodium losses, stretching and massage.
Heat exhaustion may occur when a child continues to play through some of the symptoms of dehydration. In addition to the symptoms of dehydration heat exhaustion can also include the following symptoms:
– pale skin
– profuse sweating
– nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
– stomach cramps
– muscle cramps
If heat exhaustion is suspected the child should be taken out of play and moved to a cool area. Equipment and extra clothing should be removed and cold towels and a fan used to cool the child. If the child does not make quick improvements, seek immediate medical treatment.
Heat stroke is a severe and very serious form of heat illness. Signs and symptoms may include those for dehydration and heat cramps as well as:
– core body temperature above 104°F (rectal temperature)
– altered consciousness
– irritability or combativeness
Immediate treatment for heat stroke includes calling on-site emergency medical personnel or 911 and beginning to cool the child with cold towels, fans, and cold water while waiting and during transport to the hospital or medical facility.
National Athletic Trainers Association
Heat Illness, Medline Plus
The elbows and forearms are other common areas that can get injured or feel sore. Have you ever heard of tennis elbow or golf elbow? These do not only affect those who play tennis or golf.
Any repetitive movement such as typing, yard work (especially digging, tilling, or cutting bushes), decorating cakes, or painting can lead to discomfort in these areas. Proper strengthening and stretching can make a huge difference in keep your forearms and elbows healthy.
Ball or Sock Squeeze
- Start by getting a semi-soft ball or a rolled up sock.
- Place in the palm of your hand and squeeze.
- Hold the squeeze for 6 seconds and then relax for 10 seconds before you begin again.
- Do this 8 to 10 times (you may want to start by doing this just a few times) and then switch to the other hand.
Isometric Elbow Push
- Stand with elbow bent at 90 degrees and fist pressing against the wall.
- Push your fist against the wall until you feel the pressure in your elbow and hold for 10 seconds.
- Repeat this 10 times and switch arms.
Internal Elbow Rotation
- Using an exercise band (or cable pulley machine), start by putting one end of the band around a doorknob or stable post. (If you don’t have a band or cable pulley, start with right arm down at your side and your elbow bent with your hand out like you would to shake somebody’s hand. Next, place your left hand on your right wrist – your left hand will be used to resist the movement as outlined on the last bullet point).
- Stand with the door or post to the side of the right side of your body.
- Move away from the door until you have created resistance in the band between you and the door.
- Hold on to the exercise band or cable pulley and bend your elbow to create a 90-degree angle.
- Now move your fist toward your stomach without losing the 90-degree angle of your elbow. Return your hand to the starting position and perform the movement again 8 to 10 times on each side. Perform 2 to 3 sets on each side.
External Elbow Rotation
- Start in the same position as with internal elbow rotation.
- Move a little farther away from the door so you gain more resistance in the band.
- Start with your elbow in a 90-degree angle and your upper arm next to the side of your body.
- Your lower arm will start against your stomach and slowly rotate your first away from your stomach towards the door or post.
- Be careful not lose the 90-degree angle in your elbow.
- Return your hand to the starting position and perform 8 to 10 reps on each side and 2 to 3 sets on each side.
Wrist flexor stretch
- Begin by extending your arm out in front of you with your palm facing up.
- With your other hand grab the fingers of your extended hand and slowly pull them down and back.
- Hold this position for 20 to 3 seconds and switch arms.
- Perform the stretch to do three times on each arm.
Wrist Extensor Stretch
- Begin by extending your right arm out in front of you with your palm facing down.
- Place the palm of your left hand on the back of you right hand. Push your right hand down in toward your body.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and switch arms.
- Perform the stretch to do three times on each arm.
- Start with both of your palms together and your fingertips touching the bottom of your chin.
- Slowly lower your hands while keeping your hands close to your body.
- Continue to drop your hands until you feel a mild stretch. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat this 3 to 4 times.
Elbow Pronation/Supination Stretch
- Start with your elbow at your side bent 90 degrees.
- Turn your palm up and down as far as you can go with out pain.
- Make sure you get a good stretch and hold position for 10 seconds.
- Continue for 4 sets.