As parents, we all know how accident-prone children can be. One minute they’re running along excitedly and next minute – bam! – they have fallen and scrapped their knee, or twisted an ankle.
With active children, the occasional injury is to be expected. But when your child becomes keenly involved in organised and recreational sports, be it cycling or soccer or basketball, the risk of injury increases. So how can you help your young athlete strike a healthy balance between exercising regularly and staying safe? Here are 4 tips to bear in mind.
1. Keep a close eye on your child
Compared to adults, children are more vulnerable to sustaining injuries due to their growing bones and their evolving ability to take instructions well. Most serious sports injuries involve the growth plates of children.
While effective medical treatments are easily accessible today, avoiding injuries should be the primary goal for your child. To minimise the risk of injury, close and competent supervision is required at all times, regardless of the sporting activity.
2. Ensure your child learns the proper techniques
A sensible approach needs to be taken for children participating in sports. More importantly, children need to learn proper techniques for any sport to avoid injury. Work with your child’s coach to ensure your child uses appropriate equipment, follows safety guidelines and takes all the necessary precautions.
3. Don’t be too quick to specialise in one sport
Intense training and early specialisation is often more the decision of the parents or coach rather than of the child himself. Certainly, some children demonstrate very early talent for certain sports, and it is perfectly fine for them to spend more time in those sports that they are good at. However, as in everything, specialising and overtraining for sports can sometimes lead to negative outcomes.
Parents of older children and adolescents need to be aware of what is known as the female athlete triad, which consists of eating disorders, disruption of the normal menstrual cycle, and osteoporosis (loss of bone mass). As its name suggests, the problem affects mostly female athletes, and parents of young female athletes need to be aware of this potential danger, and seek professional help if required.
4. Let your child have fun
Rather than encouraging your child to focus on one particular sport, you should develop them in multiple aspects to have a balanced social and physical development. It is important that even if they choose to undergo intensive training, the joy for the sport should not be lost in the process.
At the end of the day, children should enjoy whatever sport they play. As long as the sport is enjoyed and played safely, the goal of living a healthy lifestyle would be achieved.
Remind your child:
- Learn proper techniques.
- Listen carefully to what your coach says.
- Discuss with your coach new techniques you might wish to explore, so that it can be done safely.
- Enjoy yourself!
Article reviewed by Dr Lim Yi-Jia, orthopaedic surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital
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