Football is a very physical sport, so it’s understandable to be worried about injuries if your child wants to participate. While you can’t prevent injuries 100 percent of the time, there are some precautions that parents and coaches can take to decrease the likelihood of serious injury.
1. Equipment should fit well and be in good shape.
Protective equipment is key in reducing football injuries. Protective gear should include a helmet, thigh guards, a mouth guard, and pads for the shoulders, hips, tail, and knees. The type of shoes allowed may vary by league, but may include athletic sneakers, rubber cleated shoes, or detachable cleats. The equipment needs to fit properly to be as effective as possible. Also, inspect the equipment often to make sure everything is still in good shape.
2. Hydration is very important.
The body needs to stay hydrated to effectively cool itself and prevent dehydration. This is especially important in our hot, humid climate. Humid air doesn’t allow sweat to evaporate and cool the body as quickly as it would in a drier climate, so more fluids may be needed to avoid an increased body temperature. Children should be taking breaks frequently to drink water during practice. As a general rule, aim for 24 ounces of water before the game, and an 8-ounce cup of water every 20 minutes.
3. Always warm up and stretch before the game, then cool down after.
Cold muscles can increase the likelihood of injury, so it’s important not to skip the warm up whether it’s just a practice or it’s the big game. It’s especially important to focus on the hips, knees, thighs, and calves, holding each stretch for 30 seconds. A warm up should also include some light physical activity to get the blood flowing. Some good warm-up activities include jumping jacks, running, or walking in place for three to five minutes. After the game, don’t forget about the cool down! Stretching after the game or practice helps to keep your child flexible and reduce the risk of muscle soreness.
4. Make sure your child stays active year-round.
If your child only participates in football, it’s important to make sure they stay active in the off-season. If children are only active during the time that football is in season, it will increase their risk of injury when it’s time to return to practice the next year. Aim for a well-balanced fitness routine that includes strength training, flexibility, and aerobic exercise. At the same time, make sure the physical activity is varied and your child isn’t taking on too much at one time to prevent overuse injuries.
5. Know the signs of injury and encourage your child to report all injuries, no matter how minor.
Injuries may not always be obvious right away, so it’s important for parents and coaches to be able to recognize the early signs of an injury. It’s also important to stress to your children the importance of reporting injuries to you and their coach. Children may be hesitant to report injuries if they feel it may result in them being taken out of the game; it’s important that they know that the sooner they report an injury, the sooner and more quickly it can be addressed.
6. Make sure all injuries are healed before your child is allowed back in the game.
To reduce the risk of re-injury, make sure all injury symptoms have ceased before your child is allowed back on the football field. Children with concussions must be cleared by a doctor before returning to play. For joint and soft tissue injuries, this means that there should be no pain or swelling, normal strength, and a full range of motion present to return to play.
With any sport, there will always be a risk of injury. However, many of these injuries can be prevented if we take the time to prepare beforehand and make safety a top priority.