Kids should have fun when playing games, and youth sports offer many different ways to play. Parents should be aware of safety concerns and take precautions to keep kids safe so they can enjoy the game without getting hurt.
Take Your Child for a Sports Physical
Before allowing your child to sign up for athletic activities, make sure they get a physical exam by their pediatrician. Many leagues and teams will require this. Tell your doctor what sport your child is interested in and ask for anything you should watch for.
Get the Right Protective Gear
Depending on the sport, kids will need helmets, knee or elbow pads, shin guards, sunglasses or eye protection, mouthguards, or pads. Don’t buy oversized new gear on the theory your child will “grow into it.” Instead, where reasonable and available (nobody wants a used mouthguard!) buy used equipment in good condition. Save new gear for when your child is a fully-grown high school athlete.
Make sure your child knows the proper way to wear shin guards and other protective gear and is comfortable—if they’re uncomfortable, there’s a risk they’ll take it off when you’re not looking. Conferring with coaches to enlist their support in enforcing rules for safety gear is a good way to protect your child in sports. The coach will know you’re concerned and will appreciate a calm talk with a rational.
Follow the Rules
Make sure your child knows and understands the rules of the game. Most leagues, especially in youth sports, design rules for the players’ safety. Keep your child out of leagues or games that tolerate players who routinely violate rules.
Don’t Let Them Play Hurt
Even if your kid is the team superstar, if they do sustain an injury, do not allow them to play until their doctor gives the OK. If your child complains of pain, play stops. No one wants to let their teammates down, but aggravating injuries could result in a permanent exit from the field. Learn the signs of concussion, but unless you’re a doctor, don’t try to diagnose it yourself. If your child is hit on the head, even while wearing a helmet, don’t take chances. Get them out of the game and to the doctor immediately to check on the injury.
Keep Them Hydrated and Watch the Weather
A labeled water bottle should be part of your child’s regular equipment. Don’t let coaches or other players, or your child, pressure you into allowing your play in dangerous weather conditions. Coaches and officials should have enough sense to get kids off the field if there’s thunder (which means lightning is likely) and certainly to get kids inside when someone reports lightning in the area. But excessive heat is very dangerous, too—hot weather warnings mean canceling the game.
Protect your child in sports by enforcing common sense safety precautions, insisting on protective gear, and objecting if teams aren’t following the rules. The goal is for kids to have fun and get some healthy exercise.