Kids sports are a great way to teach children about teamwork, physical fitness, and fair play. As good as this can be, the experience is less positive when your kids get a foot or ankle injury that takes them out of the game. Sports injury prevention is just as important for kids involved in athletics as any other game skill. Fortunately, most sports injuries can be prevented with just a few changes to the way kids play.
What Is the Importance of Sports Injury Prevention?
Avoiding any kind of injury is important, but preventing injuries is an especially big deal for kids involved in athletics. Even minor injuries to the ankle or foot have the potential to get worse over time, and kids have a lot of years ahead of them to live with nagging mobility problems caused by old wrist injuries, joint injuries, and lower extremity injuries.
Recreation-related injury episodes go beyond the physical damage they cause. For young athletes experiencing pain and disability after common injuries, the fun of the sport may be spoiled and a promising athletic career cut short because of easily avoidable harm. A relatively minor bit of damage can also easily lead to more serious injury if it doesn’t get the proper medical treatment, and an untreated previous injury can come back with improper technique or lack of equipment such as wrist guards.
All this makes preventing sports injuries one of the most important things you can do to protect kids involved in strenuous physical activity, from jumping jacks to strength training, and for solo athletes, football players, and everyone in between. The injury prevention tips below are great for preventing serious injuries from happening in the first place, along with a few suggestions on how to manage the inevitable minor injuries that happen to more than half the high school-age players in America.
7 Sports Injury Prevention Tips for Young Athletes
Learning to prevent injuries is the most effective way for kids to stay safe and enjoy years of sports participation without experiencing pain. These tips go over some of the most common injuries kids experience.
1. Work on Strength and Flexibility
Lack of physical conditioning is a leading cause of overuse injuries, and it’s a factor in injuries to muscles, wrist sprains, knee injuries, and even heat stroke. As long as a young person plays sports, it’s vital for them to keep in good physical shape and control body weight. Beyond preventing sports injuries, general fitness exercises also help improve endurance and performance, which is always helpful for young athletes.
2. Take Breaks
There’s a limit to how long a young person can work at a physically strenuous task, and going over that limit brings an increased risk of injury. Educate your child on how and when to take breaks, especially on hot days or when the practice session has been running longer than they’re used to.
3. Take Time Off When Needed
In the same vein as taking short breaks, sometimes a kid needs to just take a season off or switch to other sports for a while. Different sports work out different parts of the body, and when your child’s shoulder, knee, elbow, or other parts of the body hurt, it’s a sign it might be time to step back and let the damaged tissues recover.
4. Wear Protective Gear
Always wear protective equipment when playing sports. There are no exceptions to this rule, and a good coach will insist on it, especially for kids. Contact sports virtually always require pads and helmets, while track and field events usually have required shoes and braces that must be worn during meets. Never cut corners here, and make sure the protective gear you invest in meets all the current durability and protection standards.
5. Use Proper Technique
The body is a machine that moves and does work like any other, and like a machine, it has to be used right so nothing breaks. Take the time to learn good body mechanics, such as upper body rotation and lower body compression, before getting serious about physically demanding activities.
6. Get Medical Advice
Before your teen starts playing sports, it’s always a good idea to see a sports medicine specialist and get advice on how to play safely. Meeting with a pediatrician, podiatrist or other doctors with expertise in sports injuries lets you ask questions and get some helpful tips for stretching exercises, warm-up routines for cold muscles, heat exhaustion, resistance training exercises, and the proper way to use protective equipment. Staying in touch with your health care provider over the years helps keep you up to date on the latest research on risk and preventing injury.
7. Seek Medical Attention Without Delay
If you’re ever in doubt about whether your kid has been injured, seek medical care without delay. Left untreated, even the most common sports injuries have the potential to cause long-lasting problems for a growing body. Even if the pain turns out to be nothing serious, there’s no downside to seeing a doctor who specializes in sports medicine and getting the all-clear before returning to their sport.
Podiatric Treatment for Sports-Related Injuries
Sometimes bad things happen despite your best efforts at injury prevention. When your child is in pain or you’re afraid they might be seriously hurt, it’s time to seek treatment from a professional who knows how to help kids recover and get back in the game.
Podiatrists treat injuries and disorders of the ankles, feet, Achilles tendon, and other structures in the lower extremities. These have some of the highest risks for sports injuries, which makes your family podiatrist the front line in sports injury treatment and prevention.
Align Foot and Ankle is Southern California’s leading podiatry care provider, with offices in Camarillo and Santa Barbara. We treat young athletes for sprains, fractures, and other sports-related injuries. We also offer friendly advice for effective injury prevention through healthy stretching exercises and using the proper equipment. Call us today at our Camarillo office at (805) 482-0711 or in Santa Barbara at (805) 965-1515 for sports injury prevention advice or to schedule an appointment for your young athlete before the season begins.