What Parents Can Do to Keep Young Athletes Safe During Spring Sports
After a long winter, spring is finally here—and, for young spring-sport athletes, that means it’s time to get outside and play.
If you’re the parent of a spring-sport athlete, you’re probably gearing up for early (and sometimes, chilly) Saturday mornings at your child’s events and dusting off his or her cleats, glove or other equipment. But, as part of your annual spring-sport preparations, you also should review the signs and symptoms of common sports injuries—as well as what you can do to prevent them—so you can help your child stay safe.
What injuries are common during spring sports?
Sports injuries can be caused by trauma, such as a collision or a fall, or repetitive movements (called overuse injuries). Broken bones, eye injuries, sprains/strains and concussions are common examples of traumatic injuries caused by accidents.
Although accidents can occur in any sport with little warning, overuse injuries are usually preventable. However, different spring sports come with different risks for overuse injuries, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of the overuse injuries that are common in the sport your child plays.
Throwing and racquet sports
If your child plays baseball/softball or a racquet sport, you should be on the lookout for overuse injuries to the elbows or shoulders that can be caused by repetitively throwing or swinging a racquet.
If your child is a baseball pitcher or plays another high-volume throwing position such as catcher or shortstop, you should pay especially close attention for signs of pain or swelling in your child’s elbows or shoulders that could signal a problem.
Sports that involve a lot of running, such as track, soccer or lacrosse, can put your child at a higher risk for knee or ankle overuse injuries, stress fractures and shin splints. You should keep an eye out for pain and swelling in your child’s knees, ankles and shins that could be a sign of an overuse injury.
How can I protect my child from traumatic injuries during spring sports?
If your child plays sports, he or she will probably have an occasional accident that requires a visit to a healthcare provider. However, there are a few things you can do to lower your child’s risk of a serious traumatic injury, including:
- Provide proper equipment.
You should be sure that your child is wearing all required equipment for his or her sport—and that it fits properly and is free of excessive wear and tear.
- Know the signs of a concussion.
Concussions can be caused by any forceful physical contact and require immediate evaluation and treatment by a healthcare provider. It is important for parents to look out for concussion signs and symptoms, such as headache, problems with memory, nausea or vomiting, confusion, blurred vision, sensitivity to light/sound, or feeling tired/groggy.
- Make sure surfaces are safe.
Playing on uneven or slippery surfaces puts your child at risk of falling, twisting an ankle or sustaining a more serious injury, such as a torn ligament or broken bone.
How can I protect my child from overuse injuries during spring sports?
Although overuse injuries are preventable, they are becoming more common as youth sports become more competitive and require more intense commitments from younger children. As a parent, there are a few things you can do to lower your child’s risk of overuse injuries, including:
- Take a break.
Parents should make sure that children have enough time to rest and recover after athletic activity. Although getting some exercise every day is healthy for kids, they should avoid playing their sport many days in a row.
- Follow league guidelines.
You should make sure your child’s coaches follow all league guidelines regarding playing time to minimize your child’s risk of overuse injuries. Youth baseball leagues, for example, typically follow age-appropriate pitching guidelines. Some other sports may limit the amount of weekly game and practice time to ensure that young athletes get proper rest.
- Avoid overspecialization.
If your child is a gifted athlete who loves a certain sport, it can be tempting to allow him or her to play year-round. However, it is best for children to take a few months off from their sport of choice during the year (and perhaps try a different type of sport during the off-season).
- Use proper form and stay conditioned.
Correct posture and body mechanics—as well as proper physical conditioning—can help your child avoid an overuse injury. You and your child’s coaches can work together to make sure your child is performing movements correctly to minimize the risk of injury.
- Know the warning signs.
You, your child and your child’s coaches should know the warning signs of overuse injuries. If your child experiences symptoms of an overuse injury, he or she should bring it to an adult’s attention right away and receive proper medical attention.
When young athletes, parents and coaches work as a team to lower the risk of injuries, spring sports can be more fun for everyone.
If you think your child has a sports injury, the nurse practitioners (NPs) at The Nurse’s Office are here for you. To find out more about how the NPs at The Nurse’s Office can help your child feel better faster, visit www.thenursesoffice.com, call (860) 603-3541 or walk in for immediate care.