Preventing injuries in youth sports [Yahoo]

broken leg soccer

Broken Legs Happen in Soccer...Or Should They?

As teams get ready to take the field for Fall, I thought this was an interesting article to share. Soccer isn’t without its share of injuries. But, how many of those injuries could be prevented with some foresight and some planning on the coach’s part? As well, over the course of fifteen years coaching, how many coaches have well-stocked medical kits for when an injury occurs? Or a medical kit at all?

While certainly all injuries aren’t preventable, if we could just prevent one injury per team per season, we’d have a major impact on the health of our soccer teams. Read this article and get some tips – really gets you thinking!

When a child gets injured playing youth sports, most people react accordingly, with the required amount of sympathy and concern. They say things like “unlucky” or “those things happen.” Afterward, they go about their days, waiting for the injury to heal, only to send the athlete back out there to go at it again.

Now, I know the tone of that sounds a touch negative, even dismissive, but that is not the true intent. It is simply the way we justify kids getting hurt. We shrug it off and move on. It’s what we do. We don’t pay close enough attention to why it happened because all we want to do is fix it and get the kid feeling happy again.

But, in more cases than we can imagine, the sustained injuries could have been prevented, or, at the very least, minimized. So the idea of being unlucky or just having something happen, at least to me, seems a bit out of touch.

Taking the time to consider ways to prevent injury is critical to keeping young athletes healthy and on the field. After all, they are there to have fun and develop their skills, and getting hurt destroys that enjoyment. As parents and coaches, we have the responsibility to create an environment that reduces the chance of injury while increasing the opportunity to play and progress.

So, think about the following ideas on how to avoid preventable injuries in youth sports. Most are simple and can be accomplished by being a little more aware, having clear plans, and communicating well with the youngsters.

1. Know the individual risk factors for each athlete. All parents should make the coach aware of any special medical concerns their child may have. This way the coach can understand why the player reacts the way he does to various situations, and he can make informed judgments about how to guide the player safely and efficiently.

2. Proper nutrition and hydration are critical. Teaching a young athlete the right way to fuel his body is a life skill that will benefit him for years. A body that has ingested quality food and is consistently hydrated can better handle the demands training and competing present.

3. Group by size, not just age. While most kids in a given age group are fairly placed, there are some who are either too small or too big to compete against their peers. Forcing an undersized boy to defend a kid twice his size is not a smart call.

4. Ensure safe conditions. Practicing on poorly maintained fields or in hazardous conditions only enhances the chance of needless injuries. The coach and league officials need to make prudent decisions about the playing surfaces.

5. Playing through it. Kids should not play through an injury. Youth athletes need rest to recover. Their bodies are growing and susceptible to injury, so giving them the time to rest is important. You can still teach a player to be tough without having him limp around the field to show his strength.

6. Poor coaching. Coaches need to know what they are talking about. Instructing their players with the wrong techniques causes problems on multiple levels. If you are unsure of what to do, research and learn. No coach knows everything, and every coach needs to always want to learn more.

7. Use proper equipment. It’s not always easy, but getting the right equipment that fits well makes the prevention of injury that much simpler. Ill-fitting football helmets, for example, are a recipe for disaster. Sure the player has a helmet on, but if he gets hit hard, his head is going to rattle around in there like he is wearing a bucket on his head.

8. Recovery time. Kids can’t be pushed to train the way older athletes can. In the age of specialization, the pressure for players to do more and be more is tremendous, and essentially unneeded. Kids need down time to rejuvenate their minds and bodies. Without it, the fatigue factor, both mentally and physically, begins, making the athlete more open to injury.

I have coached high school and youth athletics for over 16 years, and I have made many mistakes, some of them in regards to the ideas above. I also know that some injuries, despite my best effort to prevent them, will occur. Yet I have worked to learn to make sure the kids under my watch have the best chance of being healthy and happy. Now, I always try to anticipate the problems before I have to react to them. I have found this to be one of the most important bits of knowledge I have ever learned.

Sources: University of Michigan Health System
Article Originally Posted: http://sports.yahoo.com/top/news?slug=ycn-8904937


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