April is National Youth Sports Safety Month, a month dedicated to helping raise awareness of sports injuries in kids while also helping parents, coaches and student athletes learn how to avoid injuries. First observed in 2001, National Youth Sports Safety Month was established by a devoted mom in Massachusetts whose daughter suffered a devastating back injury that ended her tennis career.
About 1.24 million kids receive emergency room care for sports-related injuries each year in the U.S. - that's 3,400 kids each day - and about 90% of student athletes say they've been injured while playing a sport. Many of those injuries can be quite serious, interfering not just with the child's ability to play sports, but also with their future development and well-being.
As a leading provider of sports imaging services for athletes of all levels and all ages, RAI offers this list of youth sports safety tips to help parents ensure their kids stay safe and healthy during sports and outdoor play:
- Before letting your child participate in an organized sport, schedule a physical exam. During the exam, the physician will be able to identify any issues that should be addressed prior to participation. For kids with special needs, the doctor can also recommend any accommodations that might be necessary to enable the child to participate fully.
- Meet with the coach or playground supervisor (or gym teacher) to let them know about any issues your child has, including asthma or allergies.
- Keep kids hydrated. Make sure children drink plenty of water before, during and after play. Have a water bottle on hand and make sure your child keeps it filled.
- Make sure kids warm up with gentle stretching exercises and light cardio like jogging or running in place prior to play or practice. Warming up gets muscles and joints ready for play, increasing circulation and improving flexibility so many overuse injuries, sprains and strains can be prevented. In fact, a study from the University of Calgary found a warm-up routine that includes aerobic, strength, agility and balance exercises is especially effective in reducing youth sports injuries.
- Know the signs of heat-related illnesses. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are serious medical issues that can lead to coma and even death of not promptly treated. Signs and symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, lack of sweating, confusion and shortness of breath. Heatstroke also causes the body's temperature to rise dramatically.
- Be sure your child wears the appropriate sports safety gear, and make sure it fits them properly. When gear doesn't fit right, it can't provide the protection your child needs to help prevent injury.
- Include "days off" in your child's routine. Periods of rest allow the body to heal, which can be very important in preventing overuse injuries and muscle strains that can lead to other, more serious injuries. It's also important for kids to take breaks during competitive play and practice.
- Never encourage your child to play if they have an injury - even if it's a "big game." No game is more important than your child's healthy future.
- Encourage kids to try out different sports to avoid overstraining specific muscle groups or joints. Playing different types of sports can also improve coordination, which in turn can help prevent injuries.
- If your child has an injury or reports an ache, pain or other symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. Because kids are still growing, even seemingly minor injuries can have a major impact on their health, growth and development.
RAI is committed to helping youth athletes stay healthy. Our sports radiology program features the most advanced technology to diagnose an array of sports-related injuries, including fractures, concussions and joint injuries, as well as soft-tissues injuries and injuries to the tendons and ligaments. Plus, our skilled team of radiologists has significant experience in assessing all types of sports-related musculoskeletal injuries, providing the in-depth information necessary for ensuring your child receives the most appropriate care for their needs.
As a parent, your child's health is paramount. When your child is injured, you want to be sure they receive the best medical care available to support a fast and complete recovery. If your child needs medical imaging for a sports-related injury or any other type of injury, we can help. To learn more about our sports radiology program or any of the other services we provide for pediatric and adult patients, call RAI today at 609-585-8800.