By Dr. Ronald Wagner
In their 2013 Annual Report, “Game Changers: Stats, Stories and What Communities Are Doing to Protect Young Athletes,” Safe Kids shared four things that parents, athletes and coaches can do to prevent sports injuries.
1. Get educated about prevention and share that knowledge.
Learning about sports mechanics and sports safety is easier than ever. With online safety videos and articles and community sports safety clinics, parents have access to a vast amount of information. We have developed an online library for coaches, parents and athletes that highlights some of the most critical sports safety knowledge for parents and coaches to know.
Proper equipment and playing surfaces will contribute to athlete safety as well. As a rule of thumb, protective equipment should be approved by the organizations that govern each of the sports – the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) for hockey, for example. To check on the strength and durability of a helmet, look for the NOCSAE sticker, which indicates that the helmet meets the standards of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.
2. Learn skills to prevent injuries while playing sports.
Athletes can avoid a great variety of injuries to hips, knees and ligaments through proper strengthening, stretching and agility exercises. Proper tackling form can reduce head contact, and resulting head injuries. Proper mechanics when jumping and running can prevent ligament tears and breaks. Check out these resources to help your athlete with his or her form:
- Jump Mechanics Guide by Athelite: This guide demonstrates proper form for athletes to utilize when jumping.
- Safe Kids ACL Injury Prevention Exercises: In this video demonstration, Safe Kids demonstrates 7 ACL exercises to prevent injuries.
- CDC HEADS UP Resources: This site, developed by the Centers for Disease Control provides resources for parents, coaches and athletes, including a free concussion and safety helmet app. The app helps with helmet selection and injury response.
As kids grow, their likelihood of injury increases – in part due to the increased force and weight with collisions and falls – and in part due to their ever-shifting center of gravity through growth spurts. Balance exercises and mechanics coaching can help prevent recurrence of these instances.
3. Encourage athletes to speak up about injuries.
Athletes are, by nature, competitive. We’ve all seen players “walk it off,” or “man up,” but many times this is done to their detriment. Encourage your athletes to share their concerns, to be honest about their injuries and to take care of themselves in between games so that they are in a better position to recover from sports injuries when they do occur.
4. Support coaches and officials in making decisions to prevent serious injuries.
Coaches and officials are stewards of athlete health – a job that isn’t without its risks, and which hopefully comes with rewards as well. Strong injury prevention policies can protect athletes from overuse or impact injuries and extend their athletic career and the opportunities that it provides.
We recommend that parents take the time to learn about their state’s concussion injury laws, which determine whether a pre-participation physical is required – and whether immediate removal of an athlete is required after a sustained hit, fall or other injury – until a medical professional is available to provide clearance for play.
For more details on the SafeKids recommendations and other great resources, click here to view the SafeKids guide.
For other coach and parent resources, explore our library.