Health in the UK: How to support your children in back-to-school sports | Opinion


Playing sports can benefit children’s physical and mental health, as well as a large part of their social life.

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments in the United States treat nearly 3 million youth sports injuries each year, many of which can be prevented by taking proper safety precautions.

Here are some safety measures that parents and coaches can take to reduce the risk of sports injury:

Pre-participation physical examination (PPE). Before starting a sport or a new season, make sure your child receives PPE performed by a doctor, nurse practitioner or other qualified healthcare professional to ensure they are healthy enough to participate in completely safe.

Stay hydrated and eat balanced meals. Be sure to bring a bottle of water to all practices and games and encourage your child to drink water 30 minutes before and every 15-20 minutes while playing sports to limit the risk of heat illness and dehydration.

To ensure they are consuming healthy meals, review the school lunch menu to encourage them to choose the foods that will provide them with the most balance and energy for their day. Also consider bringing your child a nutritious snack before the game if there is little time between school and practices.

Elongation. Encouraging children to set aside time before each practice or game to warm up and stretch can help release muscle tension and prevent muscle tears or strains commonly caused by sports. Athletes should start with 10 minutes of light activity, such as jogging, and stretch all major muscle groups before each practice or game.

Proper safety equipment. Make sure your child has the proper gear and protective gear for each sport. Some examples may include helmets, wrist guards, shin guards, and knee or elbow pads. Some sports may also require mouth guards to prevent dental injuries. Consult with your team’s coach to ensure that all equipment is in good condition, properly fitted and worn correctly for each practice or game.

Listen to your body. It’s important to teach your children to understand the signs and symptoms of common sports injuries or illnesses. Encourage children to tell a parent, coach or other trusted adult when something is wrong. It’s okay to rest when needed to prevent an injury or illness from getting worse, and taking at least one rest day a week can help prevent injury.

Ensure coaches are prepared. If your child’s school does not have a sports coach, it is important that coaches and other adults who support practices and events are certified in first aid and CPR, and have a first aid kit care with them. They should also be aware of signs of emerging conditions that warrant immediate referral and have an emergency action plan that can facilitate effective and efficient transport.

Coaches should encourage players to sit down if injured, seek medical evaluation, and create appropriate hydration breaks to ensure safety throughout practice.

JOHANNA M. HOCHPH.D., is an associate professor and director of the athletic training and clinical nutrition program at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences.

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