In America we idolize our sports heroes and we teach our children to do the same. We get so caught up in the fun of sports that we forget to question the safety mechanisms in place. This is especially common in youth sports.
Public health experts say they would like to see the parents take the same amount of time to investigate their child’s coach and athletic league as they do in investigating their child’s daycare center or teachers. Did you know that half of high school football teams lack a certified athletic trainer who is readily available to prevent or treat injuries?
The reason for the increased concern is the rate of serious injuries in youth sports. A national inventory of athletic injuries in youth sports, supervised by the Colorado School of Public Health, cites that among the 22 sports on their inventory, concussions haven't reported in all but one: tennis.
While most parents know about the risk of concussion related injuries with sports like football, many are unaware that sports like cheerleading and swimming also carry risks of concussion. One-third of the injuries sustained by cheerleaders are concussions. Swimmers can misjudge their distance from the wall and hit their head or collide with someone coming from the other direction while underwater.
Children are also more likely to sustain an injury during practice than they are during a game. The National Center for Catastrophic Sports Research reports that among young athletes deaths caused by heatstroke outnumber deaths caused by concussions. Deaths caused by heatstroke are 100% preventable. Having athletic supervision that knows the appropriate training practices could help prevent such unnecessary tragedies. Teaching your child to listen to their body instead of “toughing it out” can also help prevent such injuries.
As parents of young athletes it is important to do your homework. Know your child’s athletic league and coach. Ask about safety protocol. Are there procedures in place for assessing concussions and other injuries? Having a certified athletic coach who is knowledgeable about appropriate injury prevention is very important. Listening to your child and making sure they do not play while injured is also important.
Sports can offer a variety of benefits to children. They teach kids positive lessons and keep them active. Just don’t let the excitement of sports get in the way of asking questions about your child’s safety.