Sports Safety

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Whether your child is shooting a three to win the game, going for a touchdown against a rival team or hitting that grand slam, you don’t want them to be down for the count due to an injury or dehydration. Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness offers sports safety information for children and families to help make sure kids have a winning shot at doing their best.

How to Prevent Sports Injuries

  • Make sure your child receives an annual pre-participation sports physical with a health provider before the sports season begins.
  • Meet with your child’s coach before the first practice to share any history of asthma, chronic conditions or medical needs that may require special attention.
  • Make sure your child’s coach has emergency contact information for your child, including important phone numbers, medical information and allergy information.
  • Make sure your child has the right equipment to wear at both practices and games (e.g., properly fitted helmet, shin guards, mouth guards, properly fitted and correct footwear).
  • Encourage your child to warm up and stretch before practices and games.
  • Make sure you encourage your child to tell you about any pain or injury they may have during or after practices or games.
  • Use sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

Is Your Child Drinking Enough Water?

When a child’s active body loses more water than it is taking in, it can be at risk for dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or even heatstroke. Even mild dehydration can affect how your child performs and can make them feel lethargic or irritable.

What can you do to prevent your child from getting overheated? Encourage them not to wait to drink water until they are thirsty. Encourage your athlete to drink plenty of water at least 30 minutes before their activity begins, and every 15 to 20 minutes during activity.

Athletes: Don’t Wait Until You’re Thirsty

When your body is thirsty, it’s already low on fluids. Grab your water bottle and fill it up, the keep filling it up as needed so your body is ready to respond. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • 5 ounces of water for an 88-pound child every 20 minutes
  • 9 ounces of water for a 132-pound teen every 20 minutes

Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration can start out mild in the form of heat cramps in the muscles. As dehydration progresses, the symptoms can become worse and life-threatening. Signs of dehydration:

  • If the athlete is thirsty for a drink, dehydration may have already started.
  • Muscle cramping in the calves, back, arms or abdomen can be a sign of heat cramps.
  • Faintness or dizziness, nausea and rapid heartbeat can be a sign of heat exhaustion.
  • Collapse, emotional instability and very high body temperature is a sign of heatstroke.

Signs of Heatstroke

Heatstroke happens when the body overheats, usually as a result of playing sports or exerting the body in high outdoor temperatures, such as during the summer months. The most severe form of heatstroke occurs when body temperature rises to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Signs of heatstroke may include:

  • High body temperature
  • Headache
  • Confusion, slurred speech, agitation, seizures or even coma
  • Hot, dry or slightly moist skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Increased breathing and heart rates
  • Redness in skin color

What to Do if You See a Child Athlete in Distress

  • Move the athlete to shaded area and remove any equipment and excess clothing.
  • Have the athlete drink cool water and lie down, raising the legs about 8 to 12 inches. Place cold towels or water on the child.
  • Call 911 if they do not respond to efforts to cool down or if their condition worsens.

Call 911 immediately if you think the athlete is having a heatstroke, and make every effort to cool the athlete right away:

  • If possible, immerse them in cold water before the ambulance arrives.
  • If immersion is not an option, soak the child with cold water from a shower, hose or wet towel.

How to Prevent Sports Concussion

You can’t see a concussion, and sometimes the blow to the head doesn’t appear to be a significant one. Signs and symptoms of concussion can show up right after the impact or it may be days or weeks after the impact occurred. It is important to know steps a child can take to prevent a concussion from occurring and how to spot concussion in kids.

Concussion prevention:

  • Because each sport is different, it’s important that your child understands their coach’s rules for safety and the appropriate way to play the sport.
  • Make sure they wear the appropriate protective equipment and it’s properly fitted and used according to the sport. If there is any question about how to wear protective equipment correctly, ask the coach right away.
  • Practice good sportsmanship. Teach your child to be a good teammate and to know when they may need a moment to calm down.

Concussion signs in athletes:

  • Does the athlete appear dazed or stunned, confused about their role or position, or seems unsure of the current state of the game?
  • Is the athlete moving clumsily or answering questions slowly?
  • Was there a loss of consciousness, either brief or for an extended period of time?
  • Has the athlete had a change in behavior or their normal personality?
  • Does the athlete have trouble recalling events prior to the blow? Are they having trouble recalling events after the hit happened?

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