Q. Is youth football safe?
A. Let’s look at what the research states: Fifty percent fewer injuries are reported among 5- to 15-year-olds while playing football than while riding bikes for that same age group. Organized football among 5- to 15-year-olds has 74 percent fewer injuries per capita than skateboarding in the same age group.
So, is football safe? The answer may be found in the equipment that boys or girls wear: Helmets need to be properly fitted to protect the head and consequently the brain from injury. Wearing the helmet of an older sibling, while cost efficient, seriously puts the player at risk for injury. The same can be said for players’ shoulder pads. All boys and girls playing youth football need to wear an athletic cup. Yes, they have them for girls, also. Proper fitting equipment is essential for all sports, but especially for youth football players.
Much attention has been focused recently on concussions as a result of football or other sports for children and teens. A concussion happens when a blow to the head or body causes the brain (a soft tissue) to strike or hit the inside of the skull (a hard bone). This action can range from mild to severe.
If an athlete ever sustains a head injury, he or she must be checked by a medical professional. Only doctors, paramedics or nurses can determine when a player may return to playing football. Healing time is most important when dealing with concussions.
Another area to evaluate is the coach of your son or daughter’s team. Take some time to talk with the coach. Drills should be performed in a safe manner for all players. Tackles should be conducted by leading with the shoulder pads. Coaches who teach proper technique in tackling will keep their players from devastating injuries.
In fact, most sports injuries can be prevented. Here are some common reasons sports injuries occur:
- Individual risk factors (such as medical conditions);
- Inadequate physical exams before participating (every child should get a sports-specific physical exam before each season);
- Lack of pre-season conditioning;
- Lack of safety equipment, or poorly fitted, improper equipment;
- Lack of proper eye protection;
- Teaming up by age instead of size;
- Unsafe playing fields, or surfaces;
- Improper training or coaching, or lack of instruction;
- Not warming up, cooling down and stretching properly;
- Playing while injured;
- Stress and inappropriate pressure to win;
- Temperature; and
- Poor nutrition or hydration.
Making sure that equipment is properly fitted for your athlete, seeking medical attention if your athlete receives any trauma to the head and, finally, making sure that proper technique is used when coaching your son or daughter will make youth football a safe and pleasurable experience for today’s youth.
- Check out this guide from the National Institutes of Health on Childhood Sports Injuries and Their Prevention. It has tips on treating and avoiding sports injuries, and even has “scorecards” with information about specific sports.
- Consult the University of Michigan Health System for more information and tips for parents as they ponder getting their children involved in sports.
- Read this story by Education News Colorado and EdNews Parent reporter Rebecca Jones on innovations and proposed legislation aimed at protecting Colorado’s student athletes from concussions.