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Sports Safety--Identifying High-Risk Situations

Sports can be played in an organized setting, at school, in the street, or even in the backyard. A child can benefit from participating in sports both emotionally and physically. However, proper precautions need to be taken when children take part in a sport, because their bodies are still growing and their coordination may not be fully developed. Precautions can range from wearing proper safety gear to appropriate adult supervision and enforcement of game rules. To ensure that your child is participating safely in sports, be aware of the following high-risk situations:

  • Faulty or ill-fitting safety gear and equipment

  • Inappropriate skill, weight, and/or physical and psychological maturity level for the sport

  • Lack of adult supervision

  • Lack of appropriate hydration

  • Unsafe playing environment

  • Lack of enforced sports rules

A special note about sports-related stress

The pressure to win when participating in sports, a poor relationship with a coach, or frustration about never getting to play in games can affect a child negatively. Signs that your child may be suffering from stress related to a sport may include the following:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Depression

  • Sleeping more than usual

  • Lethargy

  • Withdrawn from friends, family, and/or activities

Deciding whether to withdraw a child from a sport should be based on what the child says and what the parent observes. Quitting may or may not benefit your child. On the other hand, "sticking it out" may also be detrimental to your child. Winning should not be placed above learning and playing the sports. To avoid sports-related stress, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following:

  • Make sure your child is in the appropriate age and skill group for that sport.

  • The rules and playing ground should be amended to make the sports fair for all who play (such as lowering the basketball goal or shortening the distance of a race).

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