Dear Your Teen:
My daughter enjoys sports tremendously. But, I worry about her safety. There’s all the talk in the news about head injuries, and other youth sports injuries, not to mention the knee and other injuries some of her teammates already have. How can I keep my child safe and healthy on the playing field, and when should I be concerned?
Preventing youth sports injuries
Neither helmets nor other headgear – like the headbands for soccer players – have been shown to prevent the risk for concussion. In other words, even if your teenager is wearing all the recommended equipment, he or she may still be injured.
However, for head injuries, the severity of symptoms and length of recovery time can decrease significantly if the injured athlete is removed from competition immediately and abstains from all forms of physical activity until all symptoms have resolved. It’s imperative your athlete follow the instructions of his or her doctor. Rest from mental activity (such as school) and visual stimulation (such as computers, phones and video games) can also help to resolve symptoms more quickly, especially in the days and weeks following the injury.
Regarding knee injuries, there are several well-studied programs that can significantly decrease the risk for one of the most common knee injuries, an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (or ACL) injury, as well as other types of knee injuries. The PEP program, which was developed by the Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation, is one of the easiest. It’s a series of warm ups and other exercises (like stretching) that can be performed 3 to 5 days per week in lieu of your athlete’s usual warm-up. You can learn more about the Pep program at smsmf.org.
Amanda Weiss Kelly, M.D., is Division Chief, Pediatric Sports Medicine, Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University.