There's nothing quite like the excitement of watching your kid score a goal, a basket or a home run – or like the agony of watching them get hurt on the field. With more kids participating in sports than ever before, there's growing concern about youth sports injuries.
The Dangers Of Concussions
At the top of the list of parents' concerns: concussions. The brains of children are rapidly growing, and it's a critical time for brain development. Research indicates that children who experience repeated blows to the head – even if the hits don't result in concussions – are more likely to experience memory and brain functioning problems at an early age.
To break down that concerning news, we address some of parents' top questions about concussions and youth sports:
Physical activity is healthy and beneficial for kids. Childhood obesity remains one of the most serious health issues affecting children in the U.S., putting kids at risk for many health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Playing sports can be a fun way to exercise and helps kids stay physically fit. Plus, team sports can build a child's character and help develop critical social skills.
How Can I Reduce My Child's Risk Of Head Injury?
Your child can still enjoy the thrill of the game while staying safe. Consider these options for decreasing the chance of head trauma in youth sports:
Choose non-contact sports: Choose sports like tennis, volleyball or swimming. Concussions are less likely to happen in sports where there's minimal physical contact with others.
Check out safety policies: Participate in a youth sports league that has concussion safety policies.
Tackle safely: Look for a tackle football league that uses the "heads up" tackling technique. Kids are trained to tackle without head contact, using their shoulders or legs to take the hit instead.
Meet the coach: Evaluate the coach's philosophy. A competitive spirit is great, but a focus on teaching good teamwork and sportsmanship cuts down on aggressive playing.
Educate your child: Teach your child to recognize concussion symptoms. Emphasize that they should report any blows to the head or concussion symptoms to a coach, referee or you.
What Are Common Concussion Symptoms?
After a head injury, your child may experience immediate signs of a concussion, but symptoms may also appear hours or days later. Some common symptoms include:
If you suspect a concussion, it's essential for your child to see a doctor before playing sports again. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend that children sit out during a game if there’s any chance of a concussion. Talk to your child's pediatrician about appropriate next steps.