April is National Youth Sports Safety Month, an annual event sponsored by the Stop Sports Injuries organization.
All parents of young athletes fear sports injuries - and there are a large number out there. A 2013 ESPN article reported that more than 21 million children and teens (between ages 6 and 17) are playing organized sports in the U.S.
But a large number of children and teens are also playing, then quitting because of injury. Some 29 percent of boys quit due to a health problem or injury and 27 percent of girls quit for the same reason, according to ESPN's report.
A few other noteworthy figures:
- Roughly 2.7 million kids under age 20 were treated for sports and recreation injuries between 2001 and 2009.
- There was a 62 percent increase in the number of children under 19 who were treated for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
- Football concussions among children age 10 to 14 more than doubled from 2000 to 2010.
Sports programs are a big part of many children's lives. The experiences will shape them into adulthood and should be enjoyed. But parents, children and coaches must also remember the rules of safety and learn the symptoms of a concussion and the proper ways to treat a head injury.
Symptoms of a concussion may include headaches, dizziness, trouble concentrating, amnesia surrounding the traumatic event, confusion or feeling in a fog, ringing in ears, nausea, vomiting, slurred speech, delayed response to questions and fatigue. Other symptoms may set in later, including memory and concentration problems, personality changes, sleep disturbances, psychological adjustments, depression and problems with taste and smell. When someone shows signs of these symptoms, they should receive immediate medical attention. But anytime a child suffers a concussion or head injury, they should be evaluated by a medical professional regardless of these symptoms.
Here are a few tips for parents:
Listen to Concussion Safety Information. Listen when your child's coach talks about sports injuries and concussion prevention at the start of the season. In Massachusetts, middle school and high school sports coaches are required to provide training and prevention information related to concussions, under a state law passed in 2010.
Properly Warm Up. Make sure your child properly warms up, even if you drop them off late. Lack of proper warm ups make your child vulnerable to muscle and other injuries.
Football. Make sure your young football player properly warms up, takes proper precautions on those warm late August days to prevent overheating and is educated about symptoms of a concussion. This is important in all sports, but football players are especially vulnerable due to the high contact involved in the game.
Baseball and Softball. Make sure your baseball player properly warms up to protect against arm and shoulder injuries. Then make sure your child pays attention to the coaches and umpires and always focuses on the batter to avoid getting hit. Paying attention is more important than anything else in baseball because balls and bats are always moving quickly. Read more tips on our website.
Soccer. Players are vulnerable to head and other injuries from contact with the other team. Players are often running fast, with their full attention on the soccer ball, neglecting to see other players coming at the ball with just as much force. When someone gets hurt like this, they should step off the playing field and be evaluated by a coach or yourself.
For more safety tips, visit the Stop Sports Injuries website for more tips.