Sports injuries are especially serious in children and adolescents because their bones are still developing and undergoing rapid growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents and athletes reduce the risk of injury by taking the following preventive measures:
Players should wear appropriate protective equipment such as pads, helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups and eyewear.
Athletes should do stretching exercises before and after games to increase flexibility of muscles and ligaments.
They also should do conditioning exercises during practice and before games to strengthen muscles.
Proper technique should be enforced throughout the season of play.
Athletes should take rest periods during practice and games to reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
The AAP stresses the importance of paying attention to overuse injuries, overtraining and burnout.
Overuse injury is damage to a bone, muscle or tendon that has been subject to recurring stress without time to heal. The risk of overuse in children and adolescents is greater than in adults because youths’ bones cannot handle as much stress as mature adult bones.
Parents should take notice of overuse injury symptoms:
pain in the affected area after physical activity,
pain during the activity, and
chronic, unremitting pain even at rest.
In addition to overuse injury, it is important to keep overtraining and burnout in mind. To prevent overtraining, the AAP recommends limiting one sporting activity to a maximum of five days per week with at least one day off from any organized physical activity.
Burnout can be defined as a “series of psychological, physiologic and hormonal changes that result in decreased sports performance” and often is a consequence of overtraining.
To prevent burnout, the AAP suggests keeping workouts interesting, providing longer scheduled breaks, focusing on wellness and taking time off from structured sports one to two days per week.