Sports Injuries: Playing It Safe
One of the things I love about the Olympics is that for two weeks every two years, the world’s attention collectively focuses on something positive. The news headlines are filled with sad and stressful news, so it’s uplifting to instead cheer on our nation’s elite athletes as they try to fulfill their lifelong dreams.
This year, of course, the Olympics started off on a sad note with the death of the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. But as I’ve followed the competitions, I’m struck by how many athletes seem to have dealt with serious sports-related injuries that would stop most of us in our tracks.
It seems as if skier Lindsey Vonn has the most talked about shin in the country. While watching the skeleton races, I was amazed by the story of Noelle Pikus-Pace, who missed the 2006 Olympics after being hit by a runaway bobsled. And as I’m writing this post, NBC is airing a story about the injuries that speedskater JR Celski suffered just five months ago.
If these world-class athletes can’t escape injury, how can the rest of us hope to remain injury-free while enjoying the sports we love? And how can we keep our kids safe, while also encouraging their athletic talents?
- Each year, more than 3.5 million children ages 14 years and under receive medical treatment for sports injuries. More than 30 million children participate in sports each year.
- 62% of organized sports-related injuries happen during practice, not during games and competitions.
- Collision and contact sports, like football and rugby, have higher injury rates, but injuries from individual sports, such as gymnastics and swimming, are usually more severe.
- About 33% of parents don’t take the same safety precautions during their child’s practice as they do for a game, and there are statistics showing that schools and coaches take practices less seriously than games when it comes to injuries.
Preventing Sport-Related Injuries
Whether you’re young or old, just learning a sport or an experienced athlete, there are some common sense rules we should all follow to prevent sports-related injuries:
- Use the proper sports equipment and protective gear. When gear starts to wear out, replace it rather than running the risk that it will fail in a critical situation.
- Get a physical before starting a new sport, or if returning to a sport after a long break. If you suffer a seemingly minor or moderate injury that bothers you for at least three days, get it checked out.
- Invest in lessons to learn proper form and how to correctly use sports equipment.
- Stay hydrated before, during and after exercise.
If your child is currently involved in a sport, or wants to try a new sport, you should:
- Find out the injury statistics for the sport. Check with Safe Kids USA, the AAP, your family doctor, and your child’s coach for more information.
- Ask your insurance agent if sports-related activities are covered by your medical and health insurance, and ask specifically if your child’s sport is covered. For instance, in some states cheerleading isn’t considered a sport and may not be covered by insurance companies in those states.
- Ask the officials at the school district or athletic association if they carry insurance that will pay if your child is injured.
- Make sure your child has the proper safety equipment and gear. If it’s not provided by the school or club, buy it and make he or she uses it at games and practice. (Remember that kids have a tendency to abandon protective equipment when adults are out of sight, so teach your kids why it’s so important to wear the proper safety equipment.)
- Ask if the coaches and staff are trained in emergency first aid and CPR.
Above all else, use common sense. Invest in high-quality sports gear. Know your skill level (or that of your child) and don’t take unnecessary risks. And pay attention to your body’s signals; pain, fatigue and soreness are all indicators that you should rest and allow your body to recover.