THE ROLE OF PARENTS
Parents play a critical role in advocating for sports safety.
Parents play an important role in ensuring the health and safety of their child. As a parent, you serve as your child’s number one advocate. His well-being is your number one priority. This is especially true for parents of young athletes.
One of the best things a parent can do for their child is allow him or her to play sports. In fact, according to a 2018 survey on parents’ perceptions of sports conducted by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, 9 in 10 parents feel that sports participation is important.
Children reap physical, emotional and mental benefits from participating in sports. Physically active children are less likely to be obese, have lower health care costs and have a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. Physical activity also enhances a child’s self-perception of body, competence and self-worth; they experience stronger peer relationships and greater family attachment. Youth athletes are less likely to drop out of school, more likely to attend college and have higher test scores. By allowing and encouraging your child to participate in sports, you are giving him or her the opportunity to grow a healthy body and minds.
Even with the benefits of sport, there are some inherent risks. According to the CDC, there are an estimated 2.6 million emergency department visits for youth sports-related injuries each year. Any while most parents (85%) feel that the benefits of sports outweigh the risks, many still have concerns over potential injury and illnesses. While a parent might anticipate their child to suffer a sprained ankle or dislocated finger during a game or practice, more serious injuries like concussion, can occur. Some injuries, like sudden cardiac arrest or exertional heat stroke, can be life threatening.
Before a child begins to participate in sports at a local recreational center, youth league or school, parents need to be well informed of health issues and potential risks associated with physical activity and know which questions to ask to ensure their child’s safety. Parents can play a vital role in improving factors that affect safety for their child and his or her teammates. Be proactive and well-informed.
Download our PARENT CHECKLIST FOR YOUTH SPORTS SAFETY (pdf) to learn how you can advocate for safety for your youth athlete.
Things Every Parent Should ask Before Their Child Plays Sports
WHO WILL PROVIDE MEDICAL CARE DURING PRACTICES AND GAMES?
Determine who will provide medical care for your child in case of an injury or illness. A dedicated health care professional, ideally an athletic trainer, should be present to reduce risk and provide emergency care. Having an expert make medical decisions ensures that your child’s safety as the number one priority.
If your school or club doesn’t provide an athletic trainer or other dedicated medical professional during athletic activities, talk to the school or club administration about your concerns.
WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING, EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION DOES THE COACH HAVE?
Coaches should have proper training and education on key health and safety issues to ensure that proper medical care is understood by all.
Ask about the coaches:
- Certification – first aid, CPR, AED, licensure/regulation (as required by each state) etc.
- Background checks
WHAT HAPPENS IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY?
Ask your school or club if they have and rehearse venue specific emergency action plans. These plans help to keep athletes, spectators and staff safe in case of an emergency by providing individual assignments and emergency supplies/equipment needed for various scenarios. If an athletic trainer is not employed by the school or sport league, other qualified individuals, such as a coach or athletic director, need to be present to coordinate care and carry out the emergency action plan. Knowing that a school has prepared for an emergency will give you and your child peace of mind and increase your child’s chance of survival and speedy recovery should a medical emergency occur.
- Plan – Does your school or club have a plan in place for emergencies at every venue where athletes will train, practice and play?
- Prepare – Is necessary safety equipment (such as an AED) available and in working order?
- Practice – Does your school rehearse emergency action plans on a regular basis?
IS THE EQUIPMENT SAFE?
Is the equipment adequate and safe? From the clothes and equipment your child wears, to the fields, surfaces and equipment your child plays on, you need to make sure the equipment should be safe for play.
Try to make sure your athlete has supportive shoes and the right size clothing, as equipment that is too small or too big can predispose your child to injury.
Talk to the athletic trainer, coach or athletic director about the safety of the equipment used in athletic activities. This includes making sure that helmets are fit properly, that fields and gyms are checked regularly and that emergency equipment is available and in working order.
- Correct fit for helmet, pads and other protective gear.
- Field and gym checked prior to play for any foreign objects or wear and tear that pose a potential risk.
- Locker rooms and gym mats sanitized regularly to help prevent the sharing of bacterial, viral and fungal skin infections.
- AEDs available within 3 to 5 minutes and in working order.
- Is your child emotionally and physically ready to play?
IS YOUR CHILD READY FOR PLAY?
Before your child begins any type of athletic activity or returns to play following an injury or illness, you need to determine that he or she is ready for play.
Schedule a pre-participation physical exam with your child’s primary care provider to determine his or her readiness to play and discover any condition that may limit participation. A young athlete’s underlying medical condition, such as asthma, can be exacerbated with vigorous, sustained physical activity. Being aware of these conditions in advance helps to keep your athlete safe.
Also be sure to share your child’s medical history, emergency contact information and appropriate consent to treat authorizations with your school.
Work together with coaches and athletic trainers to determine your child’s mental and physical readiness. A young athlete should not be pushed into something he or she does not want to do. If an athlete has been injured and is returning to sport, it’s critical for him or her to have the right mind set and confidence to return to play and avoid repeat injury.
IS IT FUN?
As a parent, you have a lot of influence over your child. The number one reason kids drop out of sports is because it is no longer fun. Here are a few things you can do as a parent to help keep your child physically active in sports and having fun.
- Be a good sport: model good sportsmanship and self-control. Cheer for everyone on the team and show respect to the coaches, officials and opposing team.
- Keep it positive: No matter the outcome of the game, encourage your child. Emphasize having fun more than winning.
- Keep the game in perspective: Don’t define success and failure by winning and losing. Your child can learn life-long lessons, like determination and teamwork, through sports participation.
- Explore different types of sports: talk to your kids about what sports they’re interested in. Playing multiple sports and taking rests between seasons may help prevent burnout and keep your child excited about physical activity.
DO YOU KNOW THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?
One of the most important things you can do as a parent of a youth athlete is know the signs and symptoms of injuries and illnesses common in sports. Knowing the signs and symptoms will help ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.
Sports-related injuries and illnesses that you should know the signs and symptoms of include:
- Concussion: Every three minutes a youth athlete is seen for a concussion. Concussions can happen in any sport or recreational activity, but have an increased risk in sports where contact with another athlete is common. Learn more about concussion.
- Sudden Cardiac Arrest: Cardiac arrest can affect anyone at any age or any time and is the leading cause of death in exercising youth athletes. Prompt recognition and proper response is vital for survival. Learn more about sudden cardiac arrest.
- Heat Illness and Dehydration: Heat illness and dehydration can affect all youth athletes. In fact, two-thirds of athletes show up to practice significantly dehydrated. The best way to protect athletes is to know and address the factors that lead to heat illness. Learn more about heat illness.
- Overuse Injuries: Overuse injuries account for nearly half of all youth sport related injuries. Young athletes who play one sport year round are at risk for these types of injuries. Learn more about overuse injuries.