This post has been updated from the original.
Spring is an exciting time of year for everyone involved in youth sports. As days get longer and the weather warmer, athletes, parents and coaches alike look forward to spending time outdoors, meeting new teammates and learning new skills, all while having a blast!
Whether you’re a new or returning coach, it’s time to take your place as a leader or role model for your new team; and if you’re a parent, you can help maintain that leadership off the field or pitch. Part of this leadership responsibility is the safety of the team and players. We know how busy things can get as the season gets organized and underway, so here’s a primer on spring sport safety for coaches, their teams, and parents!
Spring Sports Injury Prevention
Nearly 40 million children and adolescents participate in organized sports across North America each year. With this many youth involved in sports, injuries ranging from bruises and sprains to repetitive motion injuries can occur on a regular basis. It’s important for coaches and parents to be aware of common injuries for their sport and to put a plan in place to prevent and treat these injuries.
Some general guidelines to avoid injury apply to all sports. These include:
- Making sure players are in good physical condition prior to starting the season. Coaches may want to consider the use of pre-participation physical exams if your association does not already use them.
- Having players warm up properly before a game, and not pushing the player if they are tired.
- Keeping athletes well hydrated before, during and after a game or practice.
Other injury-prevention guidelines are specific to the sport being played. Here are some of the more common spring sports with some suggestions to reduce injuries.
Baseball and Softball
Pitching and throwing in baseball and softball can lead to overuse of the arm and shoulder. STOP Sports Injuries offers a downloadable guide that can help you diagnose an elbow or shoulder injury in baseball, with suggestions on how to treat an overuse injury and tips for prevention too. For example, they suggest that players rotate playing other positions beside pitcher, adhere to pitch count guidelines, emphasize control, accuracy and good mechanics, and speak with a sports medicine professional for any concerns about injuries. STOP Sports Injures also offers similar tips and a downloadable injury prevention guide for softball.
And remember for both baseball and softball, it’s critical to wear the appropriate equipment, such as batting helmets and gloves. Check out our blog 5 Resources to Get Ready for a Safe Baseball Season and also our Guide to Helmets!
Soccer is an incredibly popular sport worldwide. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, injury rates in youth soccer are higher than in many other contact/collision sports, and have greater relative numbers in younger, preadolescent players. To help keep the game as safe as possible, the experts at Mom’sTeam.com offer 10 safety measures to reduce or prevent soccer injuries. In addition to recommendations to implement proper conditioning and warm ups, Mom’sTeam.com suggests that soccer coaches, teams, and parents:
- Properly maintain the field to avoid the estimated 25% of soccer injuries resulting from poor field conditions.
- Reduce injuries by ensuring players wear proper shin guards.
- Reduce injuries from goal post collisions by using padded goal posts and anchors.
- Ensure players use mouth guards to reduce orofacial injuries.
- Reduce overuse injuries by setting participation limits.
Did you know that lacrosse is America’s fastest growing sport? According to the National Federation of State High School Associations participation in high-school lacrosse grew 19 percent among girls and 15 percent among boys between 2008-2013. And youth lacrosse—for children 15 years old and younger—is the fastest growing segment of the sport. In the U.S., participation for boys has risen by more than 50 percent over the last five years and 43 percent for girls!
Lacrosse often sees injuries involving sprains and bruises, and knee and head injuries. To keep this contact sport fun and injury-free, protective gear is a must, including helmets, mouth guards, gloves and more. KidsHealth offers a great summary of required lacrosse gear for boys, girls and goalies to get players and teams on the right track. In addition, STOP Sports Injuries downloadable pdf on lacrosse injuries highlights the differences in play and equipment for boys and girls, and offers injury prevention and treatment recommendations as well.
You might also want to check out our blog, Returning to Play After a Concussion, for more details on when it’s safe for a player with a head injury to return to the game.
With injury prevention well in hand for your specific sport, it’s time to consider overall safety at your practices and at the game. Here are some things to consider:
- Have all your athletes completed emergency contact and waiver forms, or do you have a system to manage your contact information, such as ePACT?
- Do you have a complete first aid kit available at the game site? Read more at Mom’sTeam.com on what a sports first aid kit should contain.
- Do you have multiple safety managers or coaches who are trained in first aid?
- Do all your players have a full water bottle?
- Do you have an emergency plan, including a way to communicate with parents or guardians, in the event of an emergency?
- Do you have a proper injury report template? Writing an injury report is a critical piece to help prevent future accidents and injuries. You can learn some best practices for sports injury reports on our blog.
Now that you have taken care of your team’s safety all that’s left is to have fun and enjoy the spring weather! We hope you have a great spring sports season!
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