Football is a great way for kids to be part of a team and stay physically active. But football is a contact sport, so injuries do happen. Doctors and scientists are studying how repeatedly hitting the head during tackling affects the brain. These injuries can cause serious brain problems later in life. Recent changes in training techniques and rules may help lower the risk of brain injury. As a family, you need to decide whether the risks of football outweigh the benefits. If your child does play football, follow these tips to help prevent injuries. Safe Football Gear Football gear that can lower the risk of injury includes: Helmet. All football helmets should have a hard plastic outer shell and a thick layer of padding. Helmets should meet the safety standards developed by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE). The coach or a trained professional at a sporting goods store can make sure your child gets a helmet that meets these standards and fits well. Helmets also should have a rigid facemask made from coated carbon steel. The facemask needs to be secured to the helmet. There are different face masks for different positions and purposes. Ask the coach which one would be best for your child. Finally, all helmets should have a chin strap with a protective chin cup. The chin strap needs to be fastened and snug whenever your child plays. Pants with leg pads. Players should wear pads on their hips, thighs, knees, and tailbone. Some football pants include pads that snap into place or fit into pockets within the pants. Other pants are shells that are pulled over the pads. Shoulder pads. Football shoulder pads should have a hard plastic shell with thick padding. Shoes. Different leagues have different rules about the type of shoes and cleats (non-detachable or detachable) players can use. Check with your coach and consult your league's guidelines about which types of shoes are allowed. Mouthguard. All football leagues require players to use a mouthguard. Be sure to get one with a keeper strap that attaches it securely to the facemask. Athletic supporter with cup. A cup helps male athletes avoid testicular injuries. Additional gear. Other items that you might want to consider include: padded neck rolls forearm pads padded or non-padded gloves "flak jackets" that protect the ribcage and abdomen If your child needs to wear glasses on the field, be sure they're made of shatterproof glass or plastic. Safe Football Training Be sure that your child's team has a coach who emphasizes safe, fair play at practices and games. The coach (and athletic trainer, if possible) should be at all practices and games and: Limit the amount of contact during practices. Insist that players follow the current safety rules on tackling. Not allow helmet-to-helmet or helmet-to-body contact. Insist all players use the right protective gear, particularly a helmet that fits well and is in good condition. To prevent injuries during practice, players should: Get a sports physical before starting any new sport. Always warm up and stretch before playing. Learn and use proper techniques, especially how to tackle and how to absorb a tackle and fall to the ground safely. Stop training if they get hurt or feel pain. Hurt players need to get checked by an athletic trainer, coach, doctor, or nurse before going back on the field. Stay hydrated, particularly on hot, sunny days, by drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after games and practices. Know the team plan for emergencies. Play different sports throughout the year to prevent overuse injuries. Safe Play During games, players should: Follow all safety rules used during practice. Know the rules of the game and follow them. Be respectful of the referees and not argue with their calls. Stay calm if an opposing player seems to be trying to injure them on purpose. They can let their coach and the referee know, and let them handle the situation. Back to Articles Related Articles Competitive Sports: Helping Kids Play it Cool Sometimes the pressure to succeed on the field or in the court can be overwhelming. Learn what you can do to help your child keeps things in perspective. Read More Preventing Children's Sports Injuries Participation in sports can teach kids sportsmanship and discipline. But sports also carry the potential for injury. Here's how to protect your kids. Read More Repetitive Stress Injuries in Sports Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) happen when movements are repeated over and over, damaging a bone, tendon, or joint. Read More Signing Kids Up for Sports Organized sports can help kids grow in many ways. Consider your child's age, personality, and abilities to help make sports fun. Read More Sports Physicals Just as professional sports stars need medical care to keep them playing their best, so do student athletes. That's why it's important to make sure that kids and teens get a sports physical. Read More Sportsmanship One of the most important goals of kids' sports is helping children develop a sense of good sportsmanship. Here's how to set a good example for your kids. Read More Concussions Concussions are serious injuries that can be even more serious if kids don't get the time and rest needed to heal them completely. Read More Head Injuries Head injuries can be external or internal. Learn more about both kinds, how to prevent them, and what to do if your child is injured. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.