Keeping Spring Sports Safe
By Kate Kelly
As the weather gets warmer, kids are spending more time outside. It's great to see them running around instead of plopped in front of a screen, but you don't want your kids to get hurt. One of the best ways to minimize injuries is to make sure they’re wearing the proper equipment. These tips will help you keep your child safe this spring.
1. Make helmets a must.
And not just for bike riding. The majority of head injuries in sports and recreational activities result from bicycling, skateboarding or skating accidents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your kids may complain about helmets, but the key to keeping the gear on their heads is to make it a rule from the beginning. “Kids accept car seats and seat belts because we don't take no for an answer,” says Dr. Mark Diamond, a pediatrician with Children's Community Pediatrics in Pittsburgh. “It’s just a part of the routine of riding in the car.” The same should be true of wearing a helmet, starting with your kids’ first tricycle ride.
2. Protect their wrists.
“You really need wrist guards when skateboarding or inline skating because broken wrists are a common injury with these activities,” says Diamond, who recommends wrist guards for biking too. (For added protection, invest in some kneepads. They can soften the blow and reduce cuts and bruises.)
3. Examine the gear.
When it comes to team sports, most programs do a good job of mandating shin guards, helmets and appropriate padding. But parents need to make sure the equipment fits properly and is in good condition, says Brian Robinson, an athletic trainer at Glenbrook South High School in Illinois. Make sure your child's helmet doesn't have any cracks, that it fits snugly without interfering with vision, and that the chinstrap is still attached, suggests Robinson. Padding should feel springy when you touch it, and any tears or frays mean it’s time to get new equipment. Don't forget to inspect mouth guards -- some kids chew on them, which can make them look like a mangled piece of plastic, offering little protection for the teeth.
4. Pay special attention to cleats.
Kids’ feet grow so fast that it's tempting to try to get one more season out of a pair of cleats before investing in new ones. But playing in footwear that's too small leads to shin splints, arch strains and other foot and ankle injuries, says Robinson. If your child is wearing hand-me-down cleats that seem to be in good shape, make sure that the shoes’ insoles don't have an imprint from the former owner -- another sign that the shoes are not going to be a good fit.
5. Don't just gear up for the game.
Most organized sports-related injuries (more than 60 percent) occur during practices, not games, according to Safe Kids USA. And yet one-third of parents don't take the same safety precautions for practice as they do for the game, reports the organization.
6. Insist on mouth guards and protective cups.
These should be worn during all contact sports. Such gear may not be required for play in sports such as soccer or baseball, but it should be, says Robinson.