Keeping Your Kids Physically Safe in Youth Sports
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There are numerous benefits to organized sports, but there are also risks
For children who engage in kids’ sports, there are innumerable advantages: they learn the value of teamwork, forge lifelong friendships, gain self-confidence, and improve their physical fitness. However, despite all the positives, there are also risks associated with organized sports. From joint injuries to concussions, participating in a sport, even at a child’s level, can have a heavy downside. Here are some ways Solo Moms can reduce their kids’ risk of physical injury.
Have a conversation with your pediatrician. All sports carry risks, and pediatricians should be familiar with the common pitfalls of different sports. Instead of visiting your pediatrician for a cursory visit to complete the physical, ask about risks associated with the sport your child plays and ways to keep the experience as safe as possible for your child.
Get to know the coach. Recently, U.S. Soccer (the official governing body of all forms of soccer played in the United States) announced that children under 10 should never head the ball, while players aged 11 to 13 should limit heading in practice. Whether your child participates in soccer or swimming, is the coach professionally committed to your child’s safety and development? Does the coach stay informed of best practices for injury prevention? What are his or her attitudes toward athlete safety? If the coach appears ill informed or is nonchalant about injury, consider it a red flag.
Know what is going on during practice. You don’t need to attend every practice or be “that mom” on the sidelines screaming at her kid as if she were the unofficial assistant coach. It is important, however, to have an idea how your children are training and practicing. Are they well supervised? Is the coach employing best practices to mitigate head injuries and other risks?
Have your child participate in several sports. There is a lot of pressure to commit to a single sport at a young age. Research suggests, however, that playing a variety of sports is better for children. In addition to exposing children to a variety of experiences, avoiding specialization too early might help prevent injury.
Watch out for illness. Young athletes who train too hard not only are at risk for physical injuries but also can succumb to other illnesses. Overtraining puts the body under extreme stress and can lead to minor illness, such as the common cold, in addition to more serious illnesses, such as shingles and mononucleosis. Growing children and adolescents need rest, and sometimes the demands of a sport do not allow for adequate recovery between workouts.
Encourage good hygiene. Locker rooms, pools, and playing fields can harbor germs and bacteria, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a drug-resistant infection that can have devastating consequences, including limb amputation. Recently, New York Giants tight end Daniel Fells nearly had to have his foot amputated to clear his body of a persistent MRSA infection. Make sure your child uses a clean towel every day, and stay on top of laundry. Also, find out how often the facility is cleaned and disinfected.
Be on alert for disruptions in your daughter’s menstrual cycle. Sports such as ballet and gymnastics often require athletes to stay lean and light. In growing girls, however, this can be a recipe for disaster, postponing the start of menstruation and disrupting the menstrual cycle. Known as amenorrhea, this abnormality in menses is not limited to gymnasts and ballerinas, however. Any female who trains intensely is also at risk. Going months without a period can have serious health consequences, including stress fractures, osteoporosis, and infertility later in life.
Provide healthy foods for your athlete. Life is hectic for Solo Moms, and it is easy to have kids get lunch at school and then pick up fast food on the way home from practice. Proper nutrition can help minimize the risk of injury and illness, while helping your child enjoy his or her sport even more. Depending on how much your athlete trains, it could be a good idea to consult with a sports nutritionist to make sure your growing child is getting all the nutrients and calories he or she needs to continue growing and stay healthy.
Have fun! Most childhood athletes will not receive college scholarships, and even fewer will play professionally. The main benefit of sports for children is health, fitness, and fun!
Youth sports can be an amazing experience for kids. It is easy for Solo Moms to implicitly trust coaches and end up in a situation where their kids are injured and unhappy. Stay informed, consult with medical professionals, and keep an open dialogue with your athlete. Although there are many benefits to sports, injury and illness are a high price to pay.
Danielle Bostick, a former Solo Mom and ESME’s Well-being/Health & Fitness Guide, is a Latin teacher, an advocate, and a mom to six kids in Winchester, Virginia. When not working as an educator, Bostick writes about the National Football League for various sites and sexual assault and child sexual abuse for the Huffington Post. You can find her on Twitter: @danibostick, and on Facebook: Dani Bostick.
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