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sports safety for children

Sports safety for children includes guidelines for preventing injury to any child participating in a sport.

What is the information for this topic? 
Injuries can occur during any sport. They are much less likely to happen, though, when safety guidelines are followed. Below are 10 practical steps that parents and children can take to help make sports safer. A pre-season meeting during which parents and program organisers review these safety tips with all participants can help minimise injuries.

1. Sports programs should be staffed by a trained coach.

2. Each child should have a sports physical exam.

3. The level of activity and sport should be matched to the child.

If concentrated instruction starts too early, a child whose motor skills are not yet advanced enough often becomes frustrated and gives up. Even if a child has good co-ordination, starting concentrated instruction at too early an age may lead to boredom.

4. Appropriate protective gear for a sport should be worn.

  • Protective gear should fit a child well. If it is too big it may slide around and cause tripping or injury. It could also fly off and hit another player.
  • Eye protection is a must for sports in which eyes might get hit by an object or another player. Face masks, or guards that attach to the helmet, are used in football and cricket. All eye protection should fit securely without sliding. It should have cushions above the eyebrows and over the nose.
  • Mouth guards are soft plastic shields that protect the teeth and tongue in sports such as soccer or football, in which a child's head might be hit. They can be bought at sports stores or fitted to a child's mouth by a dentist.
  • Pads are a good idea for contact sports, such as football, soccer, hockey, and in-line skating. Pads protect bones and joints from fractures and bruises. Shin, knee, elbow, wrist, chest, shoulder, hip, and thigh pads are available for all kinds of sports. A coach or doctor can explain which pads are needed for a specific sport.

5. Protective gear should always be used properly.

Gear should never be used as a weapon. Helmets are designed to protect the head and should not be used as battering rams to run into other players. The force of the blow could cause a head injury with an intracerebral haemorrhage or even a fatal neck injury.

6. Children should warm up before sports.

A warm-up should last 15 to 30 minutes and include stretches that help lengthen muscles and boost blood flow and temperature. This readies muscles for activity and makes injury less likely.

7. Practicing a sport regularly helps prevent injuries because the child knows more about how the game should be played.

8. Children who are hurt should not return to the game.

Playing with a twisted ankle or other injury can cause additional harm. Head injuries, especially, should not be dismissed without advice from a doctor.

9. Children should be taught sportsmanship and encouraged to enjoy sports.

Children should not feel extreme pressure to win. In some sports, such as football, hockey, and cricket, players are often encouraged to play and train too intensely.

10. Coaches and parents should take a relaxed attitude about sports.

A child's desire to please is strong. Tears and cheating are inevitable if children feel they must meet the expectations of many overly competitive adults. Developmental paediatricians recommend guarding pre-teens from excessive demands and responsibilities. A highly structured, competitive athletic program can rob a child of the essence of a carefree childhood.

Although sports have much to offer children, they should not be pushed unwillingly into a sport. Parents and other adults need to take into account how children grow and mature. Differences in growth, ability, and desire, as well as physical and emotional responses to sports, should be respected.

Author: Dr. Karen Wolfe, MBBS, MA
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 16/10/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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