Tips on Keeping Our Children Safe and Healthy While Participating in Youth Sports Programs from Kaiser Permanente

Sponsored Kaiser Permanente GraphicNow that Fall is in full swing, we have been quite busy with youth sports programs and dance. Our afternoon schedule is now booked with kids sports activities just like everyone else we know. After watching my son and his friends play a quick game of football in the front yard, I’ve been wondering how to keep my children safe while getting them involved with sports teams for kids.

Youth Sports Programs Balancing The Chaos Kaiser Permanente

I had a chance to speak with Dr. James Hwang of Kaiser Permanente about keeping our children safe while participating in youth sports and extracurricular activities. Dr. Hwang agreed, in the society we live in today, children are entering sports at an early age. He recommends introducing young children to a variety of sports activities. Obviously you do not want to bombard children with 5 different sports at once, but give them a sample of a few. Let your child explore the sport before you specialize and focus on one.

Ballerina Youth Sports ProgramsFor example, we started my daughter off in a dance class at the age of 3 ½. Our goal was to introduce her to dance as well as to the social aspect of a group class. Listening to a teacher or instructor; someone she was not familiar with, while following along with peers was a great learning experience for her. By starting her off in a combination dance class, she was introduced to ballet, tap, and a little bit of gymnastics. This gave her the opportunity to experience a little of each while developing confidence and independence. Now, 4 years later, she is still enrolled in Ballet, but we’ve added Hip Hop and Tap as well.

Dr. Hwang shared that if a child focuses on one sport year round, the child could be exposed to potential injuries as a result of over use. Typically, acute injuries are most common with repetitive motion and activity. He suggested that children should get a break from their youth sports programs.

Signs your child may need time off from their youth sports program:

  • If your child is limping or avoiding the use of one of their limbs
  • If your child uses one arm to shoot a basket rather than two
  • If your child has trouble sleeping – it could be due to pain
  • If your child experiences stiffness in the morning; or lasting longer than 72 hours
  • If your child requests to be subbed out during a game when they typically play the entire game
  • If your child experiences weakness or acts tired.

Taking a break from a sport gives your child’s growing body the time to rest, especially during crucial growth spurts when their joints and muscles are more vulnerable. Another option would be to cross train, or have the child participate in different sports during consecutive seasons. Typically, there is a break from season to season – this is a great time for a child to rest and recuperate.

Youth Sports Programs Equipment Kaiser PermanenteI also discussed the effects of football on children. With the prevalence of concussions in the media, Dr. Hwang shared that the CDC recently started to look into the safest age for tackle football, and the effects of traumatic brain injury with children, as well as adults. Consider this: the earlier children start playing contact football increases their risk. They will be more exposed to a potentially serious injury.

Children can also be at risk when sharing equipment. The MRSA virus – methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to several antibiotics, can be transferred from child to child through shared equipment or towels when they have open cuts or wounds. MRSA can stay active on any piece of equipment, especially porous surfaces, for quite some time. To be on the safe side, make sure cuts and abrasions are covered with band aids, or avoid sharing equipment that has direct skin contact.

Lice is another potential risk when sharing hats or helmets. Lice is quite a difficult to battle and has become more resistant to the typical over the counter medications recommended.

Finally, Dr. Hwang discussed the importance of nutrition and a well-balanced diet is key when a child is involved in youth sports programs. Healthy pre-game and post-game calories are needed to assist the body in recovery from kids sports activities. Focus on healthy snacks like cereal, lean pasta, lean meats and fruits, before and after the sports activity. They must remember not to overeat because an excessive amount of food and exercise may result in cramps.

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