Youth Sports: Staying Active and Injury-Free

Friday, September 13, 2013 3:53 PM comments (0)

youth sportsPracticing multiple days during the week. Competing in tournaments on the weekend. Participating in rigorous training camps and leagues in the off-season. Playing the same or multiple sports year round. Does this resemble your child’s sports schedule?

Youth sports are becoming more competitive at younger ages, often requiring participation beyond the normal season to make the cut and see more starting time during games. As the pressure to participate increases and youth sports become more “professional,” your child’s risk for injury increases too. Sports are a great way to keep your child involved and active, but year-round practices for the same sport can lead to some health concerns as well, including stress fractures, ligament tears and musculoskeletal issues.  

Eric Chehab, MD, a NorthShore affiliated orthopaedic surgeon, offers some tips to help keep your kids active and injury-free:

  • Encourage participation in multiple sports. Not only will this prevent your child from overexerting the same muscle groups, it will also help develop different skills. A young athlete’s agility on the tennis court could be the key to helping him block the winning shot in the soccer net.  If your child does participate in multiple sports, try to ensure that he or she isn’t overlapping them in a season or throughout the week.
  • Limit your child to one committed sport per season. With more sports vying for year-round commitment, your child may be participating in multiple sports or leagues simultaneously.  If sport requires a great deal of practice time, this puts your child at increased risk for serious injury.  Here’s a useful rule of thumb to help prevent injury: “One sport per season and one league per sport.” 
  • Take one day off every week. Between all of the practices and games, it’s important for your child to have at least one day of rest each week.  A day off gives the body a chance to heal and recover.  You should also encourage your child to take one month off from sports and practices each year, especially if he or she is deeply involved in one or more sports. 
  • Ensure there is proper equipment and field conditions. Though this may appear obvious, much of the equipment used in recreational sports and travel leagues had been used previously and could be worn or defective.  This could expose your child to unnecessary risk. Field conditions are also important because a compromised field puts your child at risk for significant lower and upper extremity injuries.
  • Check in with the coach. The ability to teach safe technique is critical, particularly in contact sports like football and hockey.  Get to know your child’s coach and make sure he or she knows the rules of the game and how to play safety and prevent serious injury.

For additional information about sports injuries, including sports-specific tip sheets, visit the Stop Sports Injuries website: http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org 

What do you to keep your kids active?  How do you make sure they aren’t overdoing it?

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