Summer’s almost here! It’s time for kids to relax their brains after a hard year of academic training. But as we head out into the sun to get active, it’s also a time to be vigilant about summer sport safety.
As a summer camp coach and professional athlete, I encourage all parents to take the time to learn about common sport illnesses and injuries. As responsible educators, we need to recognize and prevent the more common active play injuries in children of all ages.
Common sports injuries
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Children are more susceptible than adults to fall victim to over-exertion and heat-related illnesses in the summer months. Once someone falls victim to heat exhaustion or heat stroke they’re also more susceptible to the condition in the future.
According to SWATA, “The number of heat-related injuries from 1997 to 2006 increased 133%. Youth accounted for the largest proportion of heat-related injuries or 47.6%.” SWATA also noted that two-thirds of children start practice or other outdoor activities while already significantly dehydrated.
To combat this, it’s important to recognize the signs. We must also take steps to prevent heat-related dehydration and illness before it occurs.
Sport Safety International offers a free 20 min. online course about heat safety. I highly recommend parents take this summer sport safety course as a refresher every year.
Other key things to keep in mind:
- Dress children in loose natural fiber clothing whenever possible.
- Encourage children to take regular breaks in the shade to cool down.
- Help kids hydrate often by drinking more than usual when active. Make sure children don’t wait until they feel thirsty to drink.
- Offer and encourage kids to eat ample fruits and veggies. This gives natural energy, replenishes moisture, and balances those vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.
- Limit time spent in outdoor activity. Avoid the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest.
- For older children, teach them to recognize the signs of heat-related illness. They’ll be able to both self-regulate their own activity, and help their friends stay safe.
- Encourage children to stay active in groups. They’ll be able to keep an eye on each other to help monitor their friends’ conditions for signs of heat-related illness.
Head injuries and concussions
According to the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), annually more than 170,000 children and young adults are treated in emergency departments (EDs) for sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) – including concussion.
To help educate about and protect against these injuries, the CDC now offers a free Heads Up concussion training course. It’s designed for parents, teachers, coaches, and other health professionals.
The course outlines some of the dangers of concussions, signs, symptoms, and safety precautions. As a coach and parent myself, I highly recommend it!
Protective gear for summer sport safety
You can’t just buy protective gear and then keep it in the garage or closet. For it to effectively protect your kids they need to actually wear it.
Make sure that your child understands how each piece works to protect them. Ensure they know how to properly wear the gear before engaging in their sport of choice.
While it may take children time to establish the new positive habit, there are easy ways to push kids with positive reinforcement. One super simple strategy is to make a deal to buy a new piece of coveted sport equipment when they use their protective gear for x number of days in a row!
Routine safety checks of helmets, pads, and other safety gear can mean the difference between your equipment protecting your child from injury, or possibly making the injury worse.
Here’s what you need to know:
Helmets are a must-have essential for any fast or high-impact sport. This is why when my team and I teach at our skateboarding camps and private lessons I insist on proper headgear, pads, and boards in good repair.
Helmets are the best protective gear for the head. They come in a variety of sizes and styles for each type of sport. You’re sure to find just the right fit and style for your child’s needs.
If you’re looking for skateboarding gear, be sure to check out our available gear for all ages.
I find that it’s especially important to treat helmets with respect. If your child routinely throws their helmet around, or lets them fall to the ground on hard surfaces when not in use, these impacts can cause structural weaknesses.
Hairline cracks, chips, and loose padding may prevent the helmet from fully protecting your child in an accident. Be aware and replace helmets as often as needed.
Believe it or not, mouth guards both protect against tooth and facial damage, but brain damage as well!
Mouth guards are not needed for all sports. However, in a high-contact sport environment, properly fitted mouth guards can cushion and disperse the force of a facial impact. This lessens the chances of a traumatic brain injury or concussion.
There are many types of mouth-guards including bite guards and custom fabrications. Your dentist can direct you to the most suitable one for your child, your budget, and the needs of their sport.
Regular equipment checks
As mentioned above, it’s important to check your summer sport safety equipment regularly for signs of wear and tear. Faulty equipment may compromise the gear’s ability to protect your child in an accident. Maintenance can also ensure that your child is able to use simple machines equipment – like boards and bikes – with ease.
I recommend performing a full equipment and gear inspection at the beginning of the summer, and on a monthly basis thereafter.
Tighten screws, clean bearings, and check chains of equipment like skateboards and bicycles on a regular basis. Make sure bearings are lubed and dirt is cleaned out so that equipment functions at peak performance! For skateboard-specific adjustments and maintenance, check out my beginner’s guide to a complete skateboard checkup. I’ve included step-by-step instructions.
For more in-depth training and instruction in how to master skate skills and stay safe while skateboarding, consider also joining one of the Jordan Richter Skateboard Academy’s Summer Skateboarding Camps or book a series of our year-round private lessons.
Some may think that illness and injury is just part and parcel of staying active. However, with some forethought and education about sport-related issues, you can significantly reduce the risk of serious injury and illness.
Keep your kids safe while they play this summer and, most importantly, have fun!
Keep pushing forward!