4 Ways to Increase Your Child’s Safety in Contact Sports

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The topic of concussions in sports has become a hotly disputed discussion, and many parents are apprehensive about allowing young children to play contact sports in general, and football, more specifically. Though head injuries in sports aren’t a new occurrence, recent research connecting concussions sustained in football to a host of medical and psychological conditions in adulthood has sparked both a necessary increase in attention to issues of safety in sports and a panic around “what if” scenarios that leave some parents unsure.

Though injury in any sport is not something that can be eliminated, there are strategies that parents can take to increase their child’s safety.

1. Educate yourself. Youth sports organizations are giving significant attention to this discussion, and many have made changes to increase the safety of youth contact sports. Many programs now train coaches to recognize the signs of concussions, and both parents and young athletes can become informed.

2. Talk to your child. Depending on your child’s age, help him or her to understand the risks and benefits involved in playing contact sports. Some children will “self-select” out; others will take even greater initiative in ensuring that they play as safely as possible.

3. Be selective. Some programs are more informed about this research. These are often the ones that require coaches to be certified, teach proper contact technique, have altered rules of play to increase safety and enforce those rules when a violation occurs.

4. Engage in proper pre-participation screening. Baseline concussion testing is now available in most cities for youth-sport athletes, from swimmers, who sustain more concussions than you would think, to football players. Additionally, athletic physicals are even more important for sports that require not just contact, but also heavy equipment and prolonged heat exposure.

There are risks and benefits to playing football and other contact sports. Ultimately, it is the parents’ decision to allow a child to play; however, when a child really loves a sport, there is value in carefully weighing all sides of the issue before making a decision.