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Sports Safety

Playing sports is great for children and adults. It has both physical and psychological benefits. Sports can increase physical coordination, fitness, and self-esteem. They also teach important lessons about teamwork and self-discipline.

But children are at risk for sports injuries. That's because their bodies are still growing and their coordination is still developing. Many children ages 14 and younger are treated for sports-related injuries each year. Half of all of those injuries can be prevented with proper use of safety gear and changes to the playing environment. Following sports rules can help prevent injuries, too.

Most sports injuries occur due to the following:

  • Lack of education and awareness about safety precautions and potential injury

  • Inappropriate or lack of equipment

  • Poorly conditioned players

These are general safety precautions to help prevent sports injuries:

  • Wear the right safety gear and equipment.

  • Make sure the playing environment is well lit and appropriate for the sport in question.

  • Enforce safety rules.

  • Stay hydrated during and after sports.

  • Take breaks while training and during games to prevent overuse injuries. 

Safety gear and equipment

Safety gear should be sport-specific. It may include such items as goggles, mouth guards, shin-elbow-knee pads, and helmets. The safety gear should fit properly. Sports equipment (such as bats, baskets, and goals) should also be in good working condition. Any damage should be repaired or the item should be replaced. The playing area should be free from debris and water.

The sports physical

To make sure you or your child is physically fit to play in a particular sport, get a sports physical. These physicals can reveal physical strengths and weaknesses. They can help determine which sports are appropriate.

When is my child ready to participate in sports?

Starting a child in sports at too young an age may not benefit the child physically. Children can start playing team sports when they express strong interest and you feel they can handle it. Age and size shouldn't be the only measures used. Also consider their ability to understand the concept of rules and teamwork. Keep in mind that no 2 children are alike. Some may not be ready physically or psychologically to take part in a team sport until they are older. Base your decision on whether to allow the child to take part in a particular sport based on the following:

  • Age

  • Weight

  • Build

  • Physical development

  • Emotional development

  • Child's interest in the sport

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that late-developing teens not take part in contact sports until their bodies have developmentally "caught up" to their peers' bodies.

The importance of hydration

Sweat lost during sports must be replaced with equal amounts of fluids each hour of intense sports activity. You or your child should drink fluids before, during, and after each practice or game. To avoid stomach cramps from drinking large amounts of fluids at once, drink about 1 cup of water (or a type of sports drink) every 15 to 20 minutes. Don't drink beverages with carbonation and caffeine.

The following are the most common symptoms of dehydration:

  • Extreme thirst

  • Weakness

  • Headache or dizziness

  • Dark-colored urine

  • Slight weight loss

If you or your child has signs of dehydration, make sure you or your child gets fluids immediately, as well as a snack. The symptoms of dehydration may look like other health problems. Always see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Online Medical Reviewer: Paula Goode RN BSN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Thomas N Joseph MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.