Back-to-school is an exciting time of year: new classes, fresh school supplies, and—for many families—the excitement of sports. Though a big game or new personal best can be a highlight of the year, sports require special attention for optimal performance and fun.
The following advice is vital for a great season:
• Wear proper gear. The importance of safety gear cannot be overstated. There is opportunity for injury in every athletic activity. Contact sports such as football, lacrosse, and any type of hockey require the most extensive protection, and any retailer can provide guidance to first-timers. All running sports require shoes that fit well, provide arch support, and tie tightly to avoid foot or ankle injuries. An often-overlooked piece of gear is a mouth guard, which some players shy away from due to its bulky appearance. But mouth injuries can be painful, expensive to treat, and potentially much more unattractive than a mouth guard, so make sure your child has one for any sport where they’re standard.
• Stay hydrated. Reminding players to drink water may seem unnecessary, but athletes should not wait until they’re parched to hydrate. “Kids need water before, during, and after practices or games to keep their body temperature regulated,” says Dr. Allgeier at All-Star Pediatrics. “Dehydration and heat-related illness aren’t confined to hot days. We have to replace the fluids we sweat out.” Always make sure your child has a labeled water bottle for their activities, and keep sunscreen in their bag if the sport is outside!
• Don’t neglect an injury. If your player gets hurt, he or she may want to play through it, and adrenaline feeds that urge to keep going. Any strain, sprain or hit should be checked out, and if the area feels sore, the player should rest for the duration of the practice or game. If he or she continues to feel pain the next day, call your pediatrician’s office for an appointment or at least instructions to help the injury heal. Head injuries demand particular attention. Concussions may not show symptoms right away, but they can become worse if left untreated. If your child experiences dizziness, headache, lack of coordination, confusion, ringing ears, or loss of consciousness following a head injury, call your doctor’s office immediately for instructions.
• Keep medications at hand. If your child is asthmatic as so many are, ensure they have an inhaler in their athletic bag any time they go to practice or a game. If they have a severe insect allergy and play an outdoor sport, they should keep an Epipen or other epinephrine injection. Lastly, they should always have a way to contact you in case of emergency.
• Don’t forget mental wellness. Though sports are fun and healthy, they also put added pressure on kids to perform at their highest level. Many eyes are watching them win or lose, competition runs high among players on the same team, and they have other responsibilities to manage. If your athlete feels overwhelmed by stress, or their sport makes them feel more anxious than excited, acknowledge the need for balance. Let them know you don’t want them to feel upset by their extracurricular activities, and ask what they might need to feel more in-control. Your One Pediatrics physician wants your child to have a great school year whether they’re an athlete or not. Always feel free to address school or activity-related issues with your pediatrician