Sports Safety | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Kohl's Injury Prevention Program

Sports Safety

Participating in sports is great for children both physically and psychologically. Sports can increase a child's physical coordination, fitness and self-esteem. In addition, sports can teach children about teamwork and self-discipline.

Sports-related injuries

Because children's bodies are still growing and their coordination is still developing, children are more susceptible to sports-related injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2.6 million children younger than 19 years are treated in the emergency department each year for sports- and recreation-related injuries. In addition, each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

What is a TBI?

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury. A TBI may range in severity from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. The majority of TBIs that occur each year are concussions or other forms of mild TBI.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) caused by a blow or jolt to the head or body that causes the brain to shake. The shaking can cause the brain to not work normally and can result in serious side effects. Each year, thousands of children and youth are diagnosed with concussion — only half are sports related. Visit Concussion Care for Kids: Minds Matter to learn more about concussion recognition and management.

What sports are most dangerous?

Contact and collision sports like football, basketball, ice hockey and soccer may cause injuries, but so can other sports, including:

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most injuries in young athletes are due to overuse. The most frequent sports-related injuries are sprains (injuries to ligaments) and strains (injuries to muscles), caused when an abnormal stress is placed on tendons, joints, bones and muscle.

Tips to prevent sports-related injuries

Fortunately, you can do a lot to help keep your kids safe when they grab that baseball mitt or skateboard and head out the door:

The importance of hydration

Children are at increased risk of heat illness. Compared to adults, children sweat less and produce more metabolic heat during physical activities. Children just beginning summer practices for organized sports are particularly vulnerable to suffering some form of illness such as dehydration or head stroke.

As your child participates in sports, he will sweat. This sweat must be replaced with equal amounts of fluids, usually 1 to 1 1/2 liters per hour of intense sports activity. Your child should drink fluids before, during and after each practice or game. To avoid stomach cramps from drinking large amounts of fluids at once, encourage your child to drink about one cup of water (or a type of sports drink) every 15 to 20 minutes. Your child should avoid drinks that include carbonation and caffeine.

The following are the most common symptoms of dehydration. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

If your child exhibits signs of dehydration, make sure she receives fluids immediately, as well as a snack. The symptoms of dehydration may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

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Concussion Care for Kids: Minds Matter