Being active is an important part of growing up healthy, in body and in mind. But active kids can get hurt, especially when they don't know their safety basics.
As a parent, you can't protect your child from every injury. But you can help your child keep safety in mind.
Schedule a sports physical to make sure that your child has no health problems. If your child has an illness or a problem with his or her lungs, heart, vision, hearing, strength, or movement, the doctor will tell you how your child can manage the problem and still be active.
If you think that your child needs strengthening or conditioning to avoid injury, ask your doctor for exercises or to recommend a physical therapist.
Learn about the common risks of your child's sport or activity. Then work with your child to prepare and protect against injuries.
Most sport-related injuries are from impact, overuse, or poor body mechanics.
To reduce your active child's risk of injury, you can:
Some activities are so high-risk that child health experts warn strongly against them. These include boxing, trampoline use, and driving or riding on motorized bikes and vehicles.
Safety gear helps protect your child. Before your child starts a new activity, get the right safety gear and teach your child how to use it.
Just as important is the example you set for your child. Always use safety gear for your own activities, such as a helmet for bike riding.
Depending on the sport or activity, your child may need some of these items:
Any repeat movement or impact can cause an overuse injury such as pain or soreness, inflammation, or even stress fracture of a bone. After an overuse injury has started, it can take weeks to heal. Children and teens are most at risk of overuse injury when their bones are still growing.
Common overuse injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome of the wrist, rotator cuff injury of the shoulder, tennis elbow, Osgood-Schlatter disease of the knee, and plantar fasciitis of the foot.
To help your child avoid overuse injuries:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting one sport to no more than 5 days a week, with at least 1 day off each week from any organized physical activity. Also, the AAP suggests that athletes have at least 2 to 3 months off each year from their particular sport.1
When your child is active and not drinking enough fluids, dehydration is a risk. The muscles get tired quickly, and your child may have leg cramps while walking or running.
Playing hard and sweating without drinking fluids can cause dehydration and overheating. To prevent dehydration, teach your child to:
Before, after, and during activity, water is the best choice for children and teens. A sports drink may be useful if your child has exercised intensively or for a long period of time.
Brenner JS, Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness (2007). Overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout in child and adolescent athletes. American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Pediatrics, 119(6): 1242–1245.
Other Works Consulted
Disease Control and Prevention (2011). Nonfatal traumatic brain injuries related to sports and recreation activities among persons less than or equal to 19 years—United States, 2001–2009. MMWR, 60(39): 1337–1376.
August 21, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
& John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
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