Tips for Preventing Sports Injuries in Child Athletes

Participation in team sports provide numerous physical, social and psychological benefits.  However, these benefits come with a risk; sports-related injuries.  Nevertheless, most of these injuries can be treated and don’t cause long term complications.  But prevention is better than cure.  So, learn how to prevent and recognise sports injuries so that your child can reap the benefits of team sports.  We hope you find these top tips for preventing sports injuries in kids, useful.

The Most Common Musculoskeletal Sports-Related Injuries in Kids

Sprains and Strains

A sprain is a type of joint injury that typically involves tearing of the ligaments and capsules. Symptoms to look for are: pain, swelling, stiffness and reduced efficiency of function.  Ankle sprains are the most common sports injury, and can be caused by coming down from a jump incorrectly or losing your footing while running.  Sprains can be dealt with through rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE). Strains are injuries to the muscles or tendons.  Sports related sprains are often seen in calves, groins and hamstrings.  They can be caused by overuse or incorrect technique. Sprains and strains can come on suddenly or worsen over time, so it’s important you and your child know what to look out for and allow time to recover.

Growth Plate Injuries

The growth plate, or epiphyseal plate, is the area of growing tissue near the ends of long bones in children and adolescents.  When a child stops growing, the growth plate is replaced by solid bone. Common causes are from participation in contact sports, fast moving sports, or sports with repetitive training. Symptoms to look out for: inability to put weight or pressure on a limb, pain or discomfort, or an inability to move a limb.  Growth plate injuries are less common than sprains and strains but can be serious. If you suspect your child has a growth plate injury seek immediate medical attention.

Repetitive Motion Injuries

Some painful injuries can occur from overuse of muscles or tendons, for example stress fractures and tendinitis.  Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon and stress fractures are hairlines fractures of the bone caused by repeated stress. These types of injuries can cause your child pain and discomfort; however, they often respond well to RICE.  Other treatments from your doctor are available if the pain persists.

Tips for preventing sports injuries in kids

1. Communicate with your young athlete.

Ensure your child knows to tell you or seek help if they begin to experience pain, or something that just doesn’t feel quite right. Some kids are tougher and push through pain which can lead into a more serious condition that could have been prevented with earlier intervention.

2. Get your child checked over by a GP.

Regular preseason or back-to-school physical examinations and health assessments can ensure your child is fit to play.  They can also identify and assess possible areas of concern, and prevent further injuring themselves if they have an existing condition.

3. Encourage cross training and participation in a variety of sports.

It is important that your child participates in a variety of sports so that they are not continuously putting the same muscles and joints under stress.  An easy way to explore a variety of different sports is through participation in holiday sports camps.  This helps to regularly change up the routine and ensure muscle groups aren’t being overused.  ASC run holiday sports camps in 9 different team sports.

4. Stress the importance of warming up and cooling down.

Stretching and adequate warm up are vital prevention techniques for athletes of all ages.  We recommend, a mixture of static (e.g. Toe touches and stretches) and dynamic (e.g. jumping jacks) stretches.  As these exercises will loosen muscles and prepare them for the game.  At the end of the game, allow time to cool down for your child’s heart rate to return to its normal resting level.  Stretching is again advisable to avoid injury.

5. Ensure your child gets adequate rest.

This is important for athletes of all ages. Lack of sleep and muscle fatigue can predispose children to injury.  The most common type of injuries seen in young athletes are those caused by overuse: too much sport and not enough rest time.  Allow time for an offseason, to give your child enough time to recuperate for the next season.

6. Provide a healthy and well balanced diet.

Young athletes must eat a regular, well balanced diet full of fruit, vegetables, lean protein and carbohydrates.  Regular and consistent meal times are also very important.  Where possible, aim to eat meals at the same time each day.

7. Emphasise hydration

Adequate hydration is vital for all athletes.  But, it can easily be overlooked or neglected, leading to muscle cramps and spasms.  Encourage your child to carry a water bottle with them, and to sip regular mouthfuls.  Signs of dehydration to look out for include nausea, fatigue, confusion and fainting.  Pay extra careful attention on hot and humid days, where it’s preferable to exercise early in the day or later in the afternoon, when the weather is cooler.

8. Provide the proper equipment.

Speak to your child’s coach before the season begins, about what you need to provide. Make sure that equipment such as shin guards, mouthguards, running shoes and helmets fit correctly and are in good condition.

9. Encourage proper techniques and guidelines.

Most overuse injuries are caused by incorrect technique or inadequate training, so it is important to ensure your child listens to their coaches and follows instructions.

10. Know what to look for.

If you notice something different about your child’s technique, such as a limp while running, throwing differently or nursing a muscle during play, pull your child out of play. Many injuries in young athletes are those that could have been recognised earlier and prevented. If the problem persists after rest and home treatment, seek professional advice. Also, parents should keep their kids exercising regularly after their injury heals.  Not only does exercise provide health benefits such as reducing the risk of disease and obesity.  But,  team sports also assist your child in building social skills, teamwork and helps maintain a good sense of well-being. Encourage your child to play a sport that they enjoy, and to follow the rules and play safe to minimise the risk of injury. Australian Sports Camps school holiday sports coaching programs are delivered by experienced coaches, who are trained to recognise, prevent and respond to injuries.  ASC uses the best age-appropriate sports equipment and coach correct technique.  Water and fruit snacks are provided for adequate hydration and proper nutrition.  We have qualified First Aid officers on site at every camp. Also, ASC is committed to the safety and well-being of all children and young people and they will be treated with respect and understanding at all times.

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