Minimizing Risk of Injury in Children
If a child loves their chosen sport, it’s difficult to limit their activities there. They seem to almost need to play their game and parents love to see the budding young athlete thrive and enjoy themselves. Without a fair amount of caution, youngsters can develop physical problems that will last forever. The good news is injury and overuse can be prevented. In his article, “Exercise and Children’s Health,” Dr. Theodore Ganley, orthopedic director of sports medicine at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, offers some great advice on how to prevent athletic injury to children.
A parent’s eye toward safety and overuse will go a long way toward prevention. Some organized children’s sports have built-in limitations, such as pitch counts and age/weight divisions, for players in competition. Parents should ensure that their child’s sport has such limitations. If the sport doesn’t, imposing their own limits would be wise.
Limitations on play and competition can’t prevent all injuries. When they inevitably happen, according to Dr. Ganley, children simply shouldn’t play. If a child is experiencing pain they should refrain from the activity rather than taking painkillers. “Coaches and parents should be alert to signs that an overuse injury may be developing, such as limping on the field or rubbing of the arm after throwing,” says Ganley.
In general, sensible, sport-specific precautions will minimize risk. Children should use appropriate equipment for each sport; footwear that provides appropriate support and traction or helmets for impact sports or bicycling. Fields and areas of play safe and conducive to injury minimization. It may seem a bit elementary, but areas of outdoor play should not be near vehicle traffic. The most common severe recreation-related injuries in children come from motor vehicles.
Children are growing and bones grow faster than their muscles, so proper warm-up prior to practice and competition is imperative. Dr. Ganley believes that warm-up periods which include stretching, especially the hamstring and quadriceps, should be include in every pre-game and practice routine. It will minimize hamstring pulls and similar injuries and it should become habitual.
Adequate precautions against the sun, to include proper hydration and using ample protection against the sun’s rays are other things that should not be overlooked. Parent’s, coaches and other supervisory persons should all become attuned to safety. As Dr. Ganley posits, the goal of safe participation is attainable for virtually all children.
Source: Dr. Theodore Ganley, with Carl Sherman, “Exercise and Children’s Health,” The Physician and Sports Medicine, Vol. 28, No. 2, February 2000.