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The Coach’s Role in Preventing Injuries in Youth Sports

preventing youth sports injury

Some youth baseball leagues have now been instituting pitch counts for their players in an attempt to limit injuries. Coaches should be considering doing the same, especially for standout athletes who may be playing more than everyone else.

When it comes to safety in youth sports, “play smarter, not harder” may be the best approach for coaches to preach.

As kids in the United States begin playing sports at an increasingly younger age, parents become worried about their chances of getting injured. And for good reason, too. According to ESPN’s Kids in Sports study, “From 2001 to 2009, emergency room visits for traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) among children under 19 rose 62 percent.”

The study also added that 27 percent of girls and 29 percent of boys between the ages of 6 and 17 had quit a team sport because of a health problem or injury. Sports are a great way for kids to stay active and improve their social and teamwork skills, but there’s no denying that the increased activity brings more risk.

However, even though injuries are a part of sports, coaches shouldn’t get discouraged. The same study also points out: “Long-term, the nation's biggest health concern remains obesity.”

Kids need to get out there and play because, overall, it’s good for their health and development. Fortunately, there’s a lot coaches can do to help improve safety.

Here’s just a few handy tips:

Listen to your athletes

It’s easy to tune out kids when they’re complaining about … pretty much everything. (It’s no secret that kids are great at complaining.) However, it’s still important to keep your ears open, especially when it’s regarding aches and pains.

Parents and coaches alike tend to preach a “just walk it off” attitude, but the numbers show that injuries do happen at a young age. Get to know your athletes, listen to them and you’ll know when something sounds like a potential injury and act accordingly.  

Preach fundamentals

Many moves in sports, like the overhand spike in volleyball, aren’t exactly the most natural motions that a person can take. That’s why when they’re made repeatedly with intensity, they can lead to injury.

But that risk grows exponentially when the motion is executed with poor form, and that’s why coaches need to preach solid form and fundamentals. Even if athletes are experiencing success with a kink in their technique, it could lead to injury further down the road. It’s best to tackle the problem early before it gets out of hand.

Avoid overplaying athletes

It can be easy to lose track of minutes or innings during the excitement of a game, especially when your team is playing well and the wins keep coming. However, overuse injuries are becoming increasingly common among kids, especially in sports like baseball.

In fact, some youth baseball leagues have now been instituting pitch counts for their players in an attempt to limit injuries. Coaches should be considering doing the same, especially for standout athletes who may be playing more than everyone else. It’s the smart move for long-term safety.  

Don’t be afraid to use tech

No, not every problem can be solved with an app or computer program, but there’s an increasing number of tools out there that can help out with player safety.

For example, apps such as Sport ID and TeamSafe can help coaches and parents coordinate health-related information such as emergency contacts, allergies, previous injuries, existing conditions, and other medical information. It’s an easier way to track valuable information, without the paperwork.

Give it a shot and see if it helps your team.

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