This is another in the guest posts I have received from various sources. Once again I am not endorsing Chartis, rather providing what I feel is a very good article on the safety of kids in sports.
Keeping Kids Safe in All Types of Sports
By Dr. William Spangler
When you hear about concussions and head injuries in youth sports, football and hockey typically come to mind. Increasingly, coaches, parents and athletes all across the nation have grown increasingly attuned to the risks associated with these sports and the paramount need for safety protocols during both practices and games.
When it comes to non-contact sports, however, the risks for concussions and other injuries are often overlooked. Activities such as cheerleading, gymnastics, swimming, volleyball, and skiing—to name a few—have considerable potential for serious head injuries. In fact, the sport of cheerleading, with its daring stunts and busy, year-round practice schedules, has become the leading cause of catastrophic injury in young female athletes, according to the 29th Annual Report from the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
While cheerleading and other non-contact sports may not require the same level of protective equipment as do football and hockey, it is essential that coaches, family members, and young athletes alike are able to recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions and possess the know-how to respond appropriately should such signs and symptoms occur.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when working with youth athletes participating in all kind of sports, including non-contact sports:
Have the services of an athletic trainer available.
In any sport involving younger children that has regular practices and meets, someone with athletic training—like the local high school or college coach—should be available to offer guidance on safety protocols. An athletic trainer and experienced coach can also be consulted if an injury has occurred. If no one is available immediately, and a concussion is even suspected in a child, that child should be taken to a local emergency room department for examination and then followed up for assessment by the family physician.
Discuss safety with the parents and kids.
Parents and kids need to understand the signs and symptoms associated with sports injuries such as concussions, where headache, nausea, lightheadedness, and sensitivity to light and sound are common. Because most people who suffer concussions do not lose consciousness, parents need to understand that a blow to the head cannot just be overlooked and kids can’t just “walk it off” or “tough it out.” Concussions and head injuries can be serious, especially with growing children whose brains are still developing and who may be more vulnerable to long-lasting complications.
Consider grouping kids by size, not just age.
It is common for many sports leagues to group kids according to age. We must also keep in mind that children of the same age often grow at vastly different rates. For example, an 8-year-old boy can weigh 50 lbs., while another can weigh 70 lbs., and another could weigh 100 lbs. Leagues should consider grouping by size and weight classification so that similarly-sized kids play with one another, similar to the way boxers are classified in the ring. This way, there is more of an equal playing field for the children of different sizes.
Dr. William Spangler is the spokesperson and physician for Chartis’ aHead of the Game campaign, which seeks to inform the public about the dangers of concussions in youth sports. In addition, Dr. Spangler serves as the team emergency physician for the NFL’s Houston Texans. He is board certified in emergency medicine, with 25 years of experience in this medical specialty. The website for aHead of the Game is www.chartisinsurance.com/aheadofthegame/.