“The number one tip coaches should remember is that children are not miniature adults and shouldn’t be treated as such,” says Jim Rogers, a certified athletic trainer in Temple University Hospital’s sports Medicine Center.
“This may seem obvious, but many adults don’t realize children’s bodies can’t take the same amount of physical stress adult bodies can take. That’s because children are still growing and therefore are more susceptible to injury.”
Rogers offers coaches these other tips to prevent injury:
- Stretching the muscles related to the activity is very important. For example, if a child is pitching, he should concentrate on stretching his arm and back muscles. If a child is catching, the focus should be on the legs and back.
- A good warm-up is just as important as stretching. A warm-up can involve light calisthenics or a short jog. This helps raise the core body temperature and prepares all the body’s muscles for physical activity.
- Children should not be encouraged to “play through pain.” Pain is a warning sign of injury. Ignoring it can lead to greater injury.
- Swelling with pain and limitation of motion are two signs that are especially significant in children — don’t ignore them. They may mean the child has a more serious injury than initially suspected.
- Rest is by far the most powerful therapy in youth sports injuries. Nothing helps an injury heal faster than rest.
- Children who play on more than one team are especially at risk for overuse injuries. Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive stress put on the same part of the body over and over again.
- Injuries that look like sprains in adults can be fractures in children. Children are more susceptible to fractures, because their bones are still growing.
- Children’s growth spurts can make for increased risk of injury. A particularly sensitive area in a child’s body during a growth spurt is the growth plate — the area of growth in the bone. Growth plates are weak spots in a child’s body and can be the source of injury if the child is pushed beyond his limit athletically.
- Ice is a universal first-aid treatment for minor sports injuries. Regular ice packs — not chemical packs — should be available at all games and practices. Ice controls the pain and swelling caused by common injuries such as sprains, strains and contusions.