Take a Knee: Action Steps to Reduce Sport Injuries
By Christy Campbell
It’s a familiar scene. Parents and friends cheering loudly from the sideline. The ball is moving rapidly across the field as players shift and chase. Then, all of a sudden, someone is down. Everyone on the field takes a knee while the coach runs over to assess the injury. Cheers are replaced by silence, and a concerned mom or dad inches closer to the field. Everyone waits. Finally, the injured player stands and limps off the field with the help of the coach and everyone claps as the game resumes.
Did you know 3.5 million youth experience a sports injury every year? Injuries vary based on the type of sport, with contact sports generally having a higher incidence of injury. The 2009 Consumer Product and Safety Commission lists football and basketball as having some of the highest incidence of injury, while lower impact sports, like swimming, have a lower incidence of injury. Regardless of sport, many parents of active kids worry that injuries could put an end to their young athlete’s season or deter future participation in sports. Many parents want to know what they can do to avoid injuries. Although some injuries are likely caused by a rogue pothole or an overly aggressive opponent, there are two ways parents can proactively reduce the risk.
1. Diversify activity and sports selection
Although your child may become enamored with a particular sport, to lower the risk of injury, it is important to not specialize a child too early. It is common to see young people playing the same sport on multiple teams all year long. Many parents mistakenly believe that year round training is the best way to prepare their child to compete at the college level. But in a study published in The American Journal of Sports medicine, author Timothy McGuine concluded that youth athletes that specialized in a sport were about 50% more likely to sustain an injury.
In addition, many favorite American sports are dominant on one side of the body. By encouraging off-season participation in a sport that strengthens and utilizes both sides of the body equally, your child will not only be less likely to experience an overuse injury, but will also have more balanced physical development. In fact, he will likely be a better adult athlete.
ACTION STEP: Instead of specializing in one sport year-round, try a full body “movement” type activity, like gymnastics, swimming or martial arts in the off-season. It doesn’t matter if your child will ever compete in those sports. The point is to avoid risk of injury and balance the body through a new stimulus!
2. Improve lifestyle habits off the field: sleep, hydration, nutrition
Lack of sleep can dramatically impact a child’s body and put him at risk for injury (same goes for adults). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 6 to 12 need 10-12 hours of sleep each night. Video games, phones and TV entice children to stay up far later than they should. And unfortunately lack of sleep means missing out on recovery, growth, mental clarity and potentially sets your child up for sports injury.
ACTION STEP: Limit screens at bedtime and ensure that your child is getting a good night sleep before game day and throughout the week.
In addition to sleep, proper hydration and nutrition ensure the body has the ability to repair damaged tissue and grow. Sodas, sugary drinks and fast foods are inadequate to fuel your young athlete. Think of it less as “those choices are bad”, and more as “when consuming those things, your child is missing out on water, quality proteins, fruits and vegetables and starchy carbohydrates”.
ACTION STEP: Choose water, coconut water and high-volume fruits like watermelon, pineapple and grapes as excellent choices for pre- or post-game hydration. Limit fast food and sugary treats and leave those for special occasions. Instead, choose whole foods, fruits, vegetables and healthy carbs as the primary foundation for daily meals.
Although these action steps can’t eliminate the risk of a sport injury, being proactive will make a difference. In fact, these action steps are helpful for all young athletes, regardless of injury risk. Doing a variety of exercises and prioritizing a healthy lifestyle builds a fit body for life and good habits for adulthood, an important win for a young athlete!
Christy Campbell is a NCI Certified Nutrition Coach, CrossFit Level 2 Trainer and a USAW Advanced Sports Performance Coach. She is a Navy veteran, Navy spouse and mom of 2 boys. Read about Christy’s personal transformation and nutrition coaching services at www.fitmenutrition.com.