Participating in sports is great for children both physically and
psychologically. Sports can increase a child's physical coordination,
fitness, and self-esteem. In addition, sports can teach children about
teamwork and self-discipline.
However, because children's bodies are still growing and their
coordination is still developing, children are more susceptible to
sports injuries. Approximately 3.5 million children ages 14 and under
are treated for sports-related injuries each year. Half of all of those
injuries can be prevented with proper use of safety gear, changes to the
playing environment, and the establishment of sports rules that help
Most childhood sports injuries occur due to the following factors:
- lack of education and awareness about safety precautions and potential injury
- inappropriate or lack of equipment
- improperly conditioned children
The following are safety precautions recommended to prevent sports injuries in children:
- Children should wear appropriate safety gear and equipment.
- The playing environment should be safe.
- The sport should be properly practiced with children of similar size, skill level, and physical and emotional maturity.
- Children should be fit and mentally prepared.
- Children practicing a sport should be supervised by an adult who enforces the safety rules.
- Children should stay hydrated during and after sports.
Safety gear and equipment
Safety gear should be sport-specific and may include such items as
goggles, mouthguards, shin-elbow-knee pads, and helmets. The safety gear
worn by a child should fit properly. In addition, sports equipment
(such as bats, baskets, and goals) should be in good working condition
and any damage should be repaired or replaced. The playing area should
be free from debris and water.
To make sure your child is physically fit to participate in a
particular sport, your child's physician should conduct a "sports
physical." These physicals can reveal your child's physical strengths
and weaknesses and help determine which sports are appropriate. Most
sports physicals for children include a health examination that measures
height, weight, and vital signs, as well as check eyes, nose, ears,
chest, and abdomen. In addition, your child's physician may perform an
orthopaedic examination to check joints, bones, and muscles.
Starting a child in sports too young will not benefit the child
physically. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that
children begin participating in team sports at age 6, when they better
understand the concept of teamwork. However, no two children are alike,
and some may not be ready physically or psychologically to take part in a
team sport even at age 6. A parent should base his/her decision on
whether to allow the child to take part in a particular sport based on
- physical development
- emotional development
- child's interest in the sport
Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that
late-developing teens avoid contact sports until their bodies have
developmentally "caught up" to their peers' bodies.
The importance of hydration
As your child participates in sports, he/she will sweat. This sweat
must be replaced with equal amounts of fluids, usually 1 to 1 1/2 liters
per hour of intense sports activity. Your child should drink fluids
before, during, and after each practice or game. To avoid stomach cramps
from drinking large amounts of fluids at once, encourage your child to
drink about one cup of water (or a type of sports drink) every 15 to 20
minutes. Drinks to avoid include those with carbonation and caffeine.
The following are the most common symptoms of dehydration. However, each
child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- extreme thirst
- dark-colored urine
- slight weight loss
If your child exhibits signs of dehydration, make sure he/she
receives fluids immediately, as well as a snack. The symptoms of
dehydration may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always
consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.