Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Blog Post: Safety Tips for Youth Sports


Check out this guest post by John O'Connor on safety in youth sports.  It's definitely been a concern of mine as we start to have a child old enough to compete in team sports on how to approach it.  Unfortunately our culture of sports glorification encourages people to sacrifice everything in the bloom of their youth (from college sports, pro sports to even the Olympics) to the extent that athletes can suffer a lifetime of pain or disability for playing their sport a very short amount of time.  Naturally you can be injured doing anything or participating in any sport but high-contact sports are definitely high risk by their very nature.  Clearly there are precautions and rules that can make those kinds of sports safe for kids and John looks at some ideas for that.  So without further ado...

Sports allow kids to develop many physical and social skills. With physical skills, they are able to become physically fit, increase their strength, and improve their lung capacity. With social skills, they are able to learn how to play as a team, develop leadership skills, and understand the importance of sportsmanship. Because of these positive attributes, parents often encourage their kids to participate in as many sports as they can. While all sports will present the risk of getting injured, some sports are at a higher risk than others. Football, lacrosse, hockey, and other impact sports present an increased risk for kids to be seriously injured. However, parents still desire for their kids to participate and excel in these sports; therefore, it is extremely important for all parents to know and understand the risks associated with certain types of sports, but most importantly, parents should take the necessary steps to keep their kids safe.

Over the last few years, the National Football League has been accused of reducing the excitement associated with the game. Many critics make this accusation because of the many new rules and regulations that have been implemented. Because these rules are designed to increase player safety, some actions associated with the game have been eliminated. One action that has been eliminated is big hits. Since many offensive and defensive players were getting seriously injured when big hits happened, the NFL took the bold move of completely eliminating these plays from the game. If a player commits a big hit, he can be fined or suspended. Another rule that has been implemented is the elimination of helmet-to-helmet hits and hits with the crown of a player’s helmet. As a result of these new player safety strategies, the NFL has noticed a decrease in the amount of serious injuries that its players have sustained.

The NFL understands the importance of teaching future professional players about the importance of player safety, and as a result, it created a new campaign called NFL Evolution. This campaign gives parents, educators, and coaches an overview on how they can best protect young kids when they are participating in sports. The campaign outlines the dangers and risks associated with each sport, but most importantly, it shows what actions should be taken to reduce the risk of acquiring one of these injuries. Personally, I applaud the NFL on taking the initiative to highlight the importance of player safety. While I believe that the game should be fun, I also believe that fun and excitement should not come at the expense of someone getting seriously injured. Usually, if someone is seriously injured, he or she could have received a concussion, a torn ligament, or some type of heat related injury.

Concussions
There are many head injuries that players have the opportunity to receive, but the most common injury is a concussion. Concussions will occur if someone’s head is hit by something or if the head hits something itself. Within the NFL, this results in both offensive and defensive players being at a high risk of receiving a concussion. If a player receives a concussion, he or she may complain of head pain, show signs of confusion, and even complain of hearing or memory loss. The NFLPA noticed the frequency of concussions and the effects of them; therefore, the members of the organization decided to develop a partnership with EarQ, a hearing a provider. This partnership provides former NFL players and current youth information on how to get treated for hearing loss. Furthermore, it details ways in which people can protect kids from receiving concussions and what action needs to be taken if they receive one. If a kid receives a concussion, the quickest way to get him or her on the path to recovery is to prohibit all participation in the sport until after the doctor has given him or her clearance.

Torn Ligaments
Torn ligaments are also quite common in the NFL, and they can be detrimental to a player’s career. Usually, the most frequent and destructive ligament tear is the ACL tear. In order to prevent these injuries, players should work hard to strengthen their leg muscles. Furthermore, they should always stretch before practicing or playing. If it appears that the kid has received a ligament tear, then a doctor should be contacted.

Heat Injuries
Heat injuries usually occur because the players are not properly hydrated. Therefore, parents and coaches should always provide plenty of liquid for the kids while they are playing or practicing. Other ways to prevent heat injuries are to allow the kids to take frequent breaks, advise them to wear light clothing, and schedule practices and games at night. In order to prevent heat injuries associated with sunburns and skin cancer, kids should be advised to wear sunscreen whenever they are outside playing or practicing.

Sports are extremely fun, but the safety aspect is often neglected. Therefore, parents should make sure their kids are safe, and the best way to do this is to provide them with the proper equipment and knowledge about the sport in which they wish to participate. By following those rules and the tips noted above, kids can enjoy sports in a safe manner.

John O'Connor is a father, outdoorsman, sports enthusiast and passionate purveyor of living a healthy lifestyle.  Check out his blog at bloggingwjohno.blogspot.com.

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