Staying active is important for our health, but sports injuries are on the rise among kids, and we should look at how to protect them.
The many benefits of sport for children include general fitness, improved coordination and balance, healthy weight, better sleep, greater self-confidence and social development, as well as learning about teamwork.
There is also the ever-present potential for injury – a deflected ball, a stray bat or a racquet swung too close to someone’s head, a hard tackle, slipping and falling. According to Mount Elizabeth Hospital, 65 percent of sports injuries are of people between five and 24 years old, with 41 percent being strains or sprains.
As parents, we have to accept a certain level of injury risk with sports, and factor that into our decisions when encouraging our children to participate. Here are some precautions to take to reduce the risk of your child suffering an injury.
1 CHOOSE THE RIGHT SPORT
A child may be attracted to a sport because it is a family tradition, or they have friends who play. However, choosing a suitable sport is vital because the right one can reduce the risk of injury. Certain body types and personalities are more suited to particular sports. Also, the sport will quite often select the child, or guide their position in the team. For example, bigger boys will be chosen as rugby forwards, and taller girls for netball. Fast runners and quick thinkers are valued for hockey or football. Girls who choose ballet will most likely be slender.
2 SIZE MATTERS
With non-contact sports or minimal contact sports, such as baseball, size is not such an issue. If your child wants to play a contact sport, such as rugby or football, make sure they are in a team that is appropriate for their size and stage of development. This is particularly important for boys around adolescence.
3 GET REGULAR MEDICAL CHECK-UPS
Aside from growth and development check-ups, sport-specific physical examinations are also vital before the start of every sports season, especially if there are any medical problems, such as asthma or a previous injury. These medical screenings also help to rule out any underlying health risks before your child starts a new sport.
4 OFF-SEASON TRAINING
Children who focus or compete in one sport all year round, and do not do off-season training sessions, are more likely to get injuries. Off-season training is about staying active by doing activities that are different from the primary sport. Training can include strength, flexibility, balance and other sport-specific skills. Those who participate in competitions throughout the year should use this time to relax and have fun, too.
5 EXPERIENCED COACHING COUNTS
Find experienced coaches who focus on technical skills and the importance of following safety rules as these would discourage sloppy and dangerous play.
6 USE THE RIGHT SAFETY EQUIPMENT
Equipment is essential and needs to be upgraded to fit as your child grows. Always check that they have the right gear in their kit before they leave home for training or on competition days. Depending on the sport, if helmets, mouth guards, and shin and ankle guards, or other devices are recommended, they need to be worn.
7 EYE PROTECTION
Get your child’s eyes checked before participating in any sport. Contact sports such as basketball, football, rugby or hockey may recommend the use of face shields or eye guards to prevent eye injuries.
8 PAY ATTENTION TO PLAYING SURFACES
The playing surface should be well-maintained, without sharp debris or potholes, as that would help reduce the chances of accidents and injuries.
9 MAINTAIN GOOD NUTRITION
A balanced diet provides energy, supports tissue growth and repair, and regulates your child’s metabolism for optimum sports performance. Drinking water before, during and after a game will help prevent fatigue and dehydration.
10 MEDICAL ATTENTION
Always seek prompt, professional care for any injury and follow advice about time out for rehabilitation before returning to the sport.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: CHERRIE LIM & SIMONE WU