Fall doesn't just mean back to school, it also means back to the playing fields. Time to switch from free-style summer play to organized sports: soccer, football, cheerleading, even fall hockey and basketball pop up this time of year. And, whether this is your child's first time on the team or you've been through the routine, it's a good time to regroup and make sure that whatever the sport, your child is equipped with the right "tools" to be safe and have fun.
Steve Ettinger is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a personal trainer and author of Wallie Exercises, an illustrated children's book that emphasizes exercise through the adventures of a boy and his dog. One of the most important elements when it comes to kids and sports, says Ettinger, is communication. "Whether it's as simple as not understanding an activity or as serious as reporting a serious injury, communication is key."
Below are a few more of his important tips:
Dehydration can cause dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue or any number of other negative side effects, so staying hydrated is very important! Especially on hot days, parents and coaches should monitor kids to make sure they drink enough fluids and do not exhibit any of the above side effects. Hydration is important before, during and after exercise, so make sure your athlete drinks plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Wear the Required Equipment.
Shin guards, batting helmets, wrist guards and other safety equipment can all be annoying and cumbersome, but they're there for a reason. Even during practice, it's important to always wear the recommended/required safety gear. If your kids balk at the idea, tell them this: Not only is it important to wear the gear so you don't get hurt, but training without it can negatively affect your performance come game day. It's better to get used to the discomfort of safety gear during practice than be slowed down when it matters most.
Encourage your kids to speak up if they feel uncomfortable, physically or otherwise. If coaches and parents are aware that a child is injured or certain movements cause discomfort, it's much easier to prevent injuries or modify the activity so it better suits the individual child.
Know Your Coach.
Make sure to meet the coach on the first day of practice. Knowing your child's coach or instructor may be the most important safety measure you can take. You should feel comfortable with their ability to watch over your kids, and again, communication is key.
If there's ever a safety concern or emergency on either end, familiarity with coaches will make the resolution much easier. Put the coaches' cell phone number in your phone – in an emergency you don't want to be sorting through emails or paperwork.
In addition to the external precautions you can take to make sports as safe as possible for your child, you should also be concerned with the way your athlete prepares for the activity. While some sports might have a higher risk of injury (think football), all sports involve complex movements. By having children cross-train, or practice in multiple disciplines, you'll reduce the risk of injury by preparing their bodies for a wide array of movements. This doesn't mean you need to sign up your child for every activity possible, but it does mean you shouldn't focus too much on being single-sport specific.
Dr. John Mayer, president of the International Sports Professionals Association-ISPA (www.theISPA.org) as well as a clinical psychologist specializing in families, has his own suggestions for the start of the sporting season.
He offers the following words of advice:
Resource: Check the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthychildren.org website for useful health and safety info on a variety of kids' sports.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, football has the highest incidence of concussion, but girls have higher concussion rates than boys in similar sports. Better understanding of the symptoms and risk of long-term complications have prompted the following recommendations from the AAP: