Check Your Health: Sports Safety for Kids

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Sports Safety for Kids (Photo: KUTV)

Kids are headed back to school and for many, that also means playing sports. Whether they're playing organized or recreational sports, Cambree Applegate the Director of Safe Kids Utah stopped by KUTV to deliver some tips parents need to consider to help ensure a healthy sports season.

  • Warm-up and make sure muscles are ready for play. This can include doing similar movements of the sport but at a slower pace.

  • Keep hydrated and take frequent water breaks. Make sure your child knows the importance of hydration and to speak up if they feel faint or dizzy.

  • Wear appropriate gear for the sport and don't forget to put on sunscreen if outside.

  • Discuss with your child the signs and symptoms of a concussion and the importance of sitting out when a concussion is suspected. Any change in behavior, thinking or physical functioning can be a sign of a concussion.

  • Don't pressure your child to play when injured, and don't pressure a coach to allow your kid to play while injured.

  • Be aware of the organizations concussion and injury policies. Become educated as a parent, and don't be afraid to speak up to support your child.

  • Allow athletes one to two rest days per week to help their body recover.

  • To avoid burnout or overuse injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking a 2-3 months break for a specific sport every year.

Coaching Our Kids to Fewer Injuries: A Report on Youth Sports Safety, a national survey commissioned by Safe Kids Worldwide and Johnson & Johnson, reveals misperceptions and uninformed behaviors are all too common, resulting in overuse injuries, dehydration, concussions or worse. For example:

  • Nine out of 10 parents underestimate the length of time kids should take off from playing any one sport during the year to protect them from overuse, overtraining and burnout. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), children should take 2 to 3 months, or a season, away from a specific sport every year. Young athletes are encouraged to take at least 1 day off each week from organized activity.

  • More than half of all coaches believe there is an acceptable amount of head contact during play, described in the survey as "getting your bell rung" or "seeing stars," without potentially causing a serious brain injury. The reality is it is hard to tell the degree of impact, and every precaution should be taken to protect kids from repeated concussions.
  • Approximately 4 out of 10 parents underestimate the amount of fluids a typical young athlete needs per hour of play. Children need to drink fluids every 15-20 minutes during physical activity to avoid dehydration.

  • The study revealed that 92 percent of parents say they depend on coaches to keep their kids safe, however:
  • Nearly half of all coaches indicated that they have felt pressure, either from parents or children, to play an injured child in a game.

  • Three out of 10 kids think that good players should keep playing even when they're hurt, unless a coach or adult makes them stop.

While parents rely on coaches for the safety of their young athletes, only 2 in 5 parents know how much sports safety training their child's coach has received. Even well-trained coaches report they would like more training, specifically on preventing concussions (76 percent) and heat illness (73 percent). What's preventing coaches from getting more training? Cost, lack of time and lack of local sources of information are the main barriers coaches gave for not getting more education.

"The research findings are particularly alarming because experts tell us more than half of these injuries are preventable," said Kate Carr, President and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. "There is a gap between what we as coaches and parents can do to keep our kids safe and what we're actually doing. With some simple precautions, we can change these troubling statistics and keep our kids healthy and enjoying the benefits of sports."

"Culturally, there's an attitude that injuries are a natural consequence of sports and that good athletes tough it out when they suffer an injury. But that attitude is hurting our kids," said Carr.

Zackery Lystedt understands this attitude all too well. Lystedt was a middle school athlete when he resumed play after a tough hit during a football game and subsequently was severely injured. The story of his long road to recovery inspired more than half of the states to pass laws requiring that an athlete be removed from play if a concussion is suspected. "If you're suspected of having a concussion, don't go back into the game, no matter how you feel when the adrenaline is flowing," said Lystedt.

"We all want kids to enjoy the benefits and fun of sports," said Dr. Kurt D. Newman, President and CEO of Children's National Medical Center." By adopting some basic, proven practices, we can keep our kids on the playing field and out of the emergency room."