There’s an epidemic afoot.
A recent report by Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children, revealed an alarming lack of action among parents and coaches when it comes to young athletes and sports-related injuries. Despite percentages in the majority, a significant gap in adult awareness remains, which has proven to be a major hurdle for advocacy groups seeking to change the status quo.
It’s the latest finding amidst a slew of headlines chronicling the long-term effects of head injuries and concussions in major American sports, most notably the National Football League (a federal judge granted preliminary approval to a landmark deal that would compensate former players suffering from the long-term effects of concussions), the National Hockey League and professional soccer’s governing body (a group of soccer parents and players filed a class-action lawsuit last week against FIFA over its handling of concussions).
In this case, the Safe Kids statistics shed even more light on a prominent phenomenon of sports culture, celebrating athletes who proudly and readily admit to playing through pain. Equally as detrimental are the adults that turn a blind eye to the risks of ostensibly benign injuries, allowing their kids to play through something that could turn into a much bigger problem down the road.
The Safe Kids survey included 1,000 athletes between 7th and 12th grade, 1,005 coaches, and 1,000 parents. Below are some highlights:
90% of athletes said they have been injured while playing a sport; 54% of athletes said they have played injured; 42% of athletes said they have hidden or downplayed an injury during a game so they could keep playing; and 62% said they knew someone else who had hidden or downplayed an injury so they could keep playing
70% of athletes who played injured had told a coach or parent that they were injured
More than half (53%) of coaches said they have felt pressure from a parent or player to put an athlete back into a game if the child had been injured; and 31% of parents said they don’t do anything to prevent injuries
Less than half of coaches said they had received certification on how to prevent sports-related injuries; and nearly 80% of parents said they would want their child’s coach to be certified in injury prevention
Nearly 1.24 million youth athletes were seen in emergency rooms for sport injuries in 2013, nearly 3,397 each day
The statistics underscore a stark reality for students, athletes, coaches and parents. As we enter the fall season, it’s important to take proactive steps to prevent unnecessary injuries by educating each other and taking advantage of strategies for smart play. Discussing such strategies in a communal setting may be the most beneficial way to achieve a supportive environment, one that depends on like-minded folks to protect the well being of students involved in school sports.
Below are some tips on injury prevention, as described in the same report by Safe Kids Worldwide:
Set the ground rules at the beginning of the season: Coaches bring together parents and athletes before the season begins to agree on the team’s approach to prevent injuries
Teach athletes ways to prevent injuries: Proper technique, strength training, warm-up exercises and stretching can go a long way to prevent injuries
Prevent Overuse Injuries: Encourage athletes to take time off from playing only one sport to prevent overuse injuries and give them an opportunity to get stronger and develop skills learned in another sport
Encourage athletes to speak up when they’re injured: Remove injured athletes from play
Put an end to dirty play and rule breaking: Call fouls that could cause injuries
Get certified: Learn first aid, CPR, AED use and injury prevention skills