Sports and Recreation Safety
More than 38 million kids under 14 participate in organized sports, and more than one in 10 ends up in the emergency room after suffering from a sports injury.
Whether your kids are elite athletes or just shooting hoops in the driveway, there are steps you can take to keep your kids in the game and free from injury.
Sports Injury Prevention Tips
Use of appropriate safety equipment is essential.
- Children should always wear sport-specific, properly fitting safety gear when participating in sports.
Make sure children are prepared for the demands of playing a sport.
- All children should receive a general health exam before enrolling in any sport.
- Provide children with proper aerobic conditioning and skills-building when they are learning a new sport, so that they are physically and psychologically conditioned for its demands.
- Ensure that children drink an adequate amount of liquids before and during athletic activities. Provide frequent rest periods during hot or humid weather.
Adult supervision is essential.
- Adults should be present at all times to ensure a safe playing environment and the enforcement of safety rules.
- Children should be grouped according to skill level, weight and physical maturity - especially for contact sports.
Ask about the safety-related policies of your local sports leagues.
- Coaches and other on-field personnel should be trained in first aid and CPR.
Sport-Specific Safety Equipment Checklist
- Baseball and Softball: Batting helmet, shin guards, elbow guards, athletic supporters (males), mouth guard, sunscreen, cleats, hat and detachable “breakaway bases.”
- Basketball: Mouth guard, athletic supporters (males), proper shoes, eye protection, elbow and kneepads and water.
- Football: Helmet, mouth guard, shoulder pads, athletic supporters (males), chest/rib pads, forearm, elbow, thigh pads, shin guards, proper shoes, sunscreen and water.
- Soccer: Shin guards, athletic supporters (males), proper fitting cleats, sunscreen and water.
- Track and Field: Proper fitting shoes, sunscreen and water.
Playground Safety Tips
Ensure there is safe surfacing beneath and surrounding all playground equipment in order to minimize the risks of falling.
- Recommended surface materials include sand, pea gravel, wood chips, mulch and shredded rubber. Rubber mats, synthetic turf and other artificial materials are also safe surfaces and require less maintenance.
- Avoid playgrounds with asphalt, concrete, grass, dirt and soil surfaces under the equipment. A fall onto a shock absorbing surface is less likely to cause a serious injury than a fall onto a hard surface.
- Surfacing should be at least 12 inches deep and extend at least 6 feet in all directions around stationary equipment. Depending on the height of the equipment, surfacing may need to extend farther than 6 feet.
- For swings, make sure that the surfacing extends, in the back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar, so if the top of the swing set is 10 feet high, the surfacing should extend 20 feet.
Make sure that all playgrounds are inspected and maintained by qualified personnel.
- Daily, monthly and annual maintenance schedules should be followed.
- Maintain separate play areas for children under age 5.
- Ensure that schools and childcare centers have age-appropriate, well-maintained playground equipment and that trained supervisors are present at all times when children are on the playground.
- If there are any hazards in a public or backyard playground, report or fix them immediately and do not allow children to use the equipment until it is safe.
- Report any playground safety hazards to the organization responsible for the site (e.g., school, park authority, city council).
Always supervise children using playground equipment. Stay where you can see and hear them.
- Prevent unsafe behaviors like pushing, shoving, crowding and inappropriate use of equipment.
- Ensure that children use age-appropriate playground equipment.
- Remove hood and neck drawstrings from all children’s outerwear. Never allow children to wear helmets, necklaces, purses, scarves or clothing with drawstrings while on playgrounds.
Dehydration and Heat Illness Prevention Tips
What is dehydration?
Dehydration is the excessive loss of fluids from the body. It happens when the total amount of fluids lost through sweating, urination, diarrhea, and/or vomiting is greater than the fluids taken in. Children can easily become dehydrated while playing a sport or participating in any type of physical activity. Dehydration can make a child more susceptible to a heat-related illness, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. A dehydrated child needs fluid replacement immediately.
Signs of dehydration may include:
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Muscle cramping
- Extreme fatigue
- Decreased performance
Signs of heat exhaustion may include:
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Heavy sweating
- Rapid, weak heartbeat
- Dark-colored urine
- Cool, moist, pale skin
BRIEF COMPARISON OF HEAT STROKE AND HEAT EXHAUSTION
Most severe, life-threatening, a medical emergency (call 911 immediately)
- Dry, flushed hot skin
- Very high body temperature
- No sweating
Serious, requires prompt attention
- Moist, pale, cool skin
- May have elevated temperature
- Heavy sweating
- May become life-threatening (call 911 immediately)
How to prevent dehydration in children:
- Drink 12 ounces of fluid (such as water) 30 minutes before the activity begins.
- Children under 90 pounds should drink 5 ounces every 20 minutesduring the activity. Children over 90 pounds should drink 9 ounces every 20 minutes during the activity.
- Have mandatory fluid breaks - don't wait for the child to tell you he/she is thirsty.
- Children should drink fluids after physical activity to make up for fluid loss.
EASY TIP: A child’s gulp equals a ½ ounce of fluid so generally, your child should drink about 10 gulps for every 20 minutes of play.
What to do when dehydration and/or heat illness occurs:
Treatment of dehydration and heat illness should take place immediately. Depending on the severity of the situation, immediate medical attention may be needed. If heat stroke is suspected, or there is any concern for someone experiencing any heat-related illness (for example a child with heat exhaustion who is not quickly improving) call 911 right away while making every effort to cool the patient.
- Move the child to a cool place.
- Have the child drink cool water or a sports drink, such as Gatorade (should drink only if alert, awake, and not having any vomiting).
- Raise the child’s legs 8-12 inches.
- Cool the body with water. For example, sponge the child's head face and trunk with cool, wet cloths.
- Fan the child.
- Keep the child from physical activity until cleared by the doctor.