By Adrian Sparrow
NeuLine Health

Playing sports has many physical and social benefits for kids and adults. Beyond the benefits of exercise, sports can teach important lessons about teamwork and self-discipline. But kids are especially at risk for sport-related injuries due to their growing bodies and developing coordination. 

Most injuries occur because of a lack of education and awareness about safety and possible injury; damaged, inappropriate or lack of equipment, or poorly conditioned players. 

A sports physical is not just a good idea to ensure your child is well and fit to play their sport, but it could be required, especially if the school sponsors the sport. Prepare medical forms, write down questions and concerns before the appointment, and schedule the exam sooner than later- health care providers can get busy around the start of the semester. It’ll give you more time to make any recommended lifestyle changes.  With a plethora of care under one roof, The NeuLine Clinic offers compassionate and convenient care for the whole family, including sports physicals.

All safety gear should fit properly to reduce the risk and severity of injury. Make sure all safety gear and sports equipment are in good working condition, and repair or replace anything damaged. Use the appropriate sport-specific gear and equipment to participate in practice at home, on the field, and in games. Gear might include helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, shin guards, gloves, mouth guards, ankle braces, cleats, goggles, wrist guards, and sunscreen. 

Warmup and Cooldown
Stretching before practice can release muscle tension and reduce the risk of sports-related injury. Start with 10 minutes of jogging or another light activity before practicing more strenuous drills or play. After practice or a game, do cooldown stretches or gentle variations of the sport to help gradually relax the heart rate and help prevent muscle fatigue and injuries. 

Learn the signs of dehydration and heat illness. Give kids their own water bottle to take to practice. Encourage them to drink water before, during, and after playing, even if they aren’t thirsty. Dehydration can also lead to an electrolyte imbalance, so include a snack or sports drink along with water. Snacks like applesauce (with no added sugar), celery, watermelon, and oranges are another great way to hydrate and keep their energy up. Avoid drinks with carbonation or caffeine. 

Brain injuries can result from an intense shake or jolt to the head- you don’t have to be hit or lose consciousness to have a concussion. Learn the signs of a concussion and remove the child from play until they’re cleared by a medical professional. Closely monitor injured athletes for any new or worsening symptoms.  For kids who are playing contact sports (football, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, rugby, etc.), it’s recommended they have a baseline routine EEG, read by a board-certified neurologist. This can promote brain health for athletes so they and their parents can make informed decisions about athletic participation following a head injury.

Rest is critically important when playing a sport to avoid the potential for overuse syndrome or repetitive strain injury. Kids should take breaks during practice and games and schedule at least one or two days of rest from their sport. Encourage kids to tell their coach or another trusted adult about any pain, injury, or illness during or after playing.