I recently received an email with a question that caught my eye --
"Worried Your Kid Is Going To Break...Something?"
"Hell Yes!" was all I could think because we have kids who are prone to injury.
Anyone who knows our family is not surprised to see one of the kids walking around with a cast or brace. I swear that our family motto should be 'Play hard, get hurt, do it again'.
Let's see, the kids have suffered from a deep bone contusion while playing football, a broken wrist in basketball, a leg fracture with dance and four teeth knocked out during another basketball game (read more about our medical adventures & tips on caring for a child in a cast).
And I only have 2 kids!
Family and friends have suggested that we wrap them in bubble wrap (believe me, I gave this serious consideration at one point) however, I have come to accept that we have highly active (and physical) kids who give it their all when they do something.
Tips for Avoiding Sports Injuries
Given my status as the Fun Police in our house, I do take extra care to make sure that they are as safe as they can be when playing sports.
Since it's impossible to protect them from ever being hurt, our goal is to reduce the liklihood of injuries while letting the kids enjoy the activities they like to do.
Here are a few key things I've learned over the years:
ALWAYS Wear all Your Gear
I don't care how much they complain about shoulder pads that are too tight, how their legs are sweaty because of shin guards or that the mouth guard tastes funny, ALWAYS make the kids wear all their protective gear.
At! All! Times!
This is probably the number one thing that parents can do to ensure their child is as protected as possible during practice and games. My son's leg injury would have been so much worse if he didn't have on all his pads when he was hit.
The coaches will help with this -- many of our coaches have had gear checks and if the kids don't have all their items, they sit out or have to get them before they play. Chances are you may not know which player is yours once they all suit up but all that gear is what keeps them safe!
Encourage Kids to Follow the Rules
There's a reason all those rules exist -- to keep the players safe. When my son wanted to play lacrosse on a mixed-age team, there were special rules in place to keep all the players safe.
Be sure to talk to your kids about the rules in their sports --
Do they know the right way to kick/hit the ball?
Do they understand the idea of non-contact vs. contact?
Are they aware of how to pass, hit or slide correctly?
Do they keep control of their temper during the game?
Some kids are very passionate while they're playing and they may do something not-so-smart that can cause themselves or others to be hurt. That's how my son's teeth were knocked loose -- an elbow to the mouth when another player was swinging his arms too high (a big no-no in basketball) so be sure to have those conversations frequently.
Teach Kids to Listen to Their Body
Talk to your kids about knowing what to do if they think that something doesn't feel quite right.
Maybe they took a hard hit during practice or they have a sore area on their foot that doesn't seem to go away. Not all injuries happen during impact; kids can get injuried by overusing muscles or not stretching before they practice.
My oldest had repetitive knee pain which was identified as Osgood-Schlatter and required him to wear a knee brace during all sports activities. Is wasn't a big deal at all and the pain subsided almost immediately when he was wearing the brace on a regular basis.
The big thing with kids is sometimes you have to ASK them about issues -- "why are you walking funny?" or "why do you keep rubbing your leg?" Young athletes don't always recognize that certain movements or motions can be causing them issues.
Get Enough Sleep
As with anything, kids make better decisions and their bodies are stronger if they get enough sleep.
Heck, everyone makes better decisions when they are well rested ;)
I know this can be hard to do with crazy practice schedules, late-night games or weekend tournaments but try and make it a focus and get the kids involved too.
Explain to them that their bodies need some downtime to rest and be sure they have a regular bedtime that allows them to get enough sleep during their sports season. Doctors recommend that school-age kids need 10 - 11 hours of sleep a night and tweens/teens should be getting 9 hours of rest.
If You do Get Hurt, Listen to the Doctor
Yes, you may have whiny kids if they are told they can't play for a few weeks or need to rest but it is sooooo important to listen to the doctor and allow them to recover if they are injured.
And believe me, they will whine and feel sorry for themselves. They may even want to avoid practice because it bothers them that they can't play.
Talk to them about being at full strength before getting back on the field. Help them to find ways to be involved with the team even if they can't fully participate (they might still be able to do warm-ups or non-contact activity if the doctor has cleared it).
And be sure to follow all the directions of your physician no matter many days/weeks it takes for them to recover.
Of all the injuries my son sustained over the years, I think having the 4 teeth knocked loose was one of the hardest to adjust to as he healed. He was in braces at the time which the dentist said saved the teeth from completely coming out. However, he had to take 2 weeks off from basketball and then when he did go back to playing, he had to wear a mouth guard for quite a while.
If you wonder why basketball players don't wear mouth guards, I'll tell you -- they can't call plays to their teammates with a big piece of plastic in their mouth.
Even though it stunk, we made him wear that mouth guard EVERY game and practice! And both he and his teammates got use to him communicating with it after a while.
So how do you keep your kids from getting hurt while playing sports?
Here's hoping your kids have safe sports encounters!
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