By Andrew H. Jones
Community Relations Coordinator
Sun Life Family Health Center
When kids step on the court or field of play, they have little else on their mind besides having fun. In my opinion, that is as it should be. However, it is up to us as the parents, the coaches, and healthcare providers to help kids avoid sports-related injuries.
Sports and physical activity at a young age help to form attitudes, habits and life skills that will influence all aspects of life. Since sports are such a significant part of many families’ lives, parents and coaches should instill healthy choices and attitudes towards athletics at an early age. The benefits of participating in competitive athletics include improved physical fitness, development of motor skills, self-discipline, and development of social skills. Sports give children valuable opportunities to “learn to interact not only with other children their age, but also with older individuals like their coaches and sports officials. Kids learn leadership skills, team-building skills and communication skills that will help them in school, their future career and personal relationships” (Amanda Davis. 2013).
The top priority and goal of getting kids into sports should always be about them having fun and enjoying playing and participating. To achieve this, parents and coaches can work together and pay close attention to the physical and emotional wellbeing of the youngsters involved. A well-balanced lifestyle and a positive support group is imperative for a young athlete’s development and having a healthy approach to athletics.
With the increased competitiveness of today’s sports, some parents and coaches are big proponents of focusing a child’s time, and training on one particular sport. They argue that if their child is to get ahead on the field, he/she needs to dedicate themselves to only one sport.
That approach may work well for high-level athletics, but concentrating on just one sport and training year-round at an early age, may not be a good idea. Each individual child’s physical development should be considered. Because they are still developing, young athletes are at a greater risk for long-term injury to their body. “Most injuries in young athletes are due to overuse. The most frequent types of sports injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments) strains (injuries to muscles), and stress fractures (injuries to bones). Injury occurs when excessive stress is placed on tendons, joints, bones and muscle. In a growing child, point tenderness over a bone should be evaluated further by a medical provider even if there is minimal swelling or limitation in motion” (AAP. 2017). These injuries occur gradually over time when an activity is repeated over, and over and strained parts of the body do not have enough time to recover and heal between games and practice. Parents should be aware of these factors when helping a child select a sport, but also when choosing the type of training, and the intensity of training, as well as, the overall amount of time dedicated to a sport.
As mentioned by Dr. R. Jay Lee, of Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Single sport play throughout the year can create excessive stress on specific body parts not ready for this type of intensity”. A well-balanced approach and participation in a variety of sports helps prevent your child from overdoing a sport or becoming burned out. In addition to physical ailments, participating in, and concentrating relentlessly on a single sport (or even a variety of sports) all year round can result in burnout. This can drain all the fun and joy right out of sports. However, in most cases burnout, can simply be prevented by limiting your child’s involvement to a more appropriate level and intensity.
Playing a variety of sports at a young age allows a child to develop coordination and strength, learn diverse movements and physical skills and provide them the opportunity to discover their own interests, gifts, and talents. It may be appropriate for your child at some stage to focus on one sport. In this case, and if your child has the abilities and desire to do so, encourage them to devote their time and energy to that sport and go for that college scholarship or chance to be an Olympic or professional athlete. However, for young children, consider a fun, healthy, well-rounded approach to sports may be best for your child and family. Is anyone in your family due for their next physical exam? We offer sports physicals year round for every child under the age of 18 for only $25 and college sports physicals for $50.
Alternatively, consider scheduling your recommended annual well-child exam, which is 100% covered by most insurance plans. Your health care provider could complete the sports physical exam at the same time. At Sun Life Family Health Center, we want you and your family to be as healthy as possible and regularly scheduled wellness exams help to ensure positive growth and development. As a team, we can help you in providing a bright, healthy future for you and your family.
Tip of the Month
Be a “We Player” not a “Me Player”
A team with unselfish players who support each other will generally perform better than a group of individuals that does not play as a team. #OneSmallChange