Fall is a busy time with the return to school and the start of multiple sports seasons. Whether you’re a volunteer coach or the parent of the next Lebron James, Wayne Gretzky or Penny Oleksiak, here are the top four safety tips you need to know to ensure your child is safe playing any sport:
Use the Right Equipment
We all know that children grow like weeds! As your little one heads back for a new season of hockey, soccer, ringette, football, or another sport, be sure that you check the fit of their equipment as well as the condition.
- Helmets: A helmet that fits well is one of the easiest ways to prevent injuries and concussions. Helmets should fit snug on a player so they do not shift while playing and chin straps should fit firmly under the chin. When purchasing a helmet, check that it is CSA or HECC approved and in good condition. If your child’s helmet has a cracked shell or liner, be sure to purchase a new helmet before the season begins.
- Skates, cleats and other footwear: Look for footwear that provides ample ankle and arch support. For cleats, be sure to pick ones that match the type of field your child plays on (longer studs if playing on natural grass). For skates, be sure there is a hard toe cup. And don’t forget to sharpen skates throughout the season so your athlete is less likely to fall from getting caught in ruts on the ice!
- Shin guards: Shin guards play an important role in protecting young ones from serious leg injuries. As a rule of thumb, a shin guard should extend from two inches below the knee to just above the bend in the ankle. The key here is finding the right balance between adequate protection, and comfort while playing.
- Shoulder pads: Finding the right fit for shoulder pads can be tough. Remember to measure the chest directly below the player’s armpits. And when trying on shoulder pads, check that the entire shoulder is covered and that the bicep pads are not interfering with other equipment, like elbow pads. Ridell has a great step by step guide to help you find the right fit.
Know the Signs of a Concussion
Concussions are incredibly complex injuries, and knowing the signs and symptoms is important for every coach, parent and athlete to know. According to our friends at SportMedBC, the signs and symptoms of concussions can be broken down into three categories – somatic (body), cognitive (mental) and neurobehavioral. Be sure to familiarize yourself with their guide so you can recognize a concussion as quickly as possible. And if you suspect that your athlete or child has sustained a concussion, see a trained medical professional as soon as possible for a diagnosis.
Prevent Overuse Injuries
As the name suggests, overuse injuries occur when children practice a specific technique over and over again, without providing the body with enough time to heal in between practice. These are seen most often in the knee, ankle, elbow and shoulder joints, and symptoms typically include pain and swelling.
To give you an idea of overuse injuries, it’s very common to see jumper’s knee from volleyball or basketball, and throwing injuries in the elbow from pitching in baseball or softball. A few best practices for prevention are:
- Have children participate in multiple sports instead of specializing right away.
- If you are increasing training, do not increase it by more than 10% a week (e.g. the number of passes thrown in a day, or weight being carried).
- Incorporate a well-rounded exercise plan into training, including core strength, flexibility, and strength training.
Remember to Stretch
Like adults, kids need to stretch their muscles and ligaments before and after any lengthy amount of exercise. Stretching as part of a warm-up helps increase range of motion, while also preventing the pulling and tightening of muscles, among other injuries. Cooling down after exercise helps to slow an athlete’s heart rate to a normal speed, and avoid soreness of the muscles. Kidshealth.org has a fantastic guide to make the most of a warm-up and cool down for your athletes.
We wish you all a fantastic fall sports season!
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