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Sports Medicine

PREVENTING INJURIES & RE-INJURIES IN SPORTS

If your child has been injured, they might be more vulnerable to re-injury for a variety of reasons: muscle weakness or tightness, residual issues with ligaments and tendons, and unstable balance, among them. It’s essential that they stick to the physical therapy regimen.

But there are plenty of other, often overlooked, means of preventing injuries. Here are 6 of them.


 

1. Eat the Right Foods

Without the right nutrition, your child can develop conditions like exercise-related fatigue, which can increase the risk of injury. Calories, protein, fluids, vitamins, minerals, fats, and carbohydrates are all important for keeping your child’s energy up and decreasing the risk of injury. Each child’s nutrient balance depends on many factors, such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Type of sport

Talk to a nutritionist or dietitian to create a diet plan that will fulfill your child’s nutritional needs.


 

2. Don’t Skimp on Stretching—But Don’t Overdo It

A little light stretching before exercise can improve flexibility and balance, which are important in preventing injuries. And if you have scar tissue from an injury, stretching might help to improve your range of motion.

But too much stretching can actually decrease strength. One study of 44 years’ worth of data found that pre-exercise stretching lowered muscle strength by 5.4% (Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, March 2013). The study found the smallest effects, however, among people who stretched for less than 45 seconds.

Make sure your child’s warm-up routine focuses on warming up the entire body, not just the muscles. Encourage light stretches, plus something cardiovascular like jumping jacks.


 

3. Remember to Cool Down

Cooling down sometimes gets ignored, but it’s important—it brings your child’s body back to its normal state.

To cool down, have your child do about 5 to 10 minutes of low-intensity cardio exercise, followed by stretches. These exercises loosen muscles that might have tightened, decreasing soreness and promoting recovery.


 

4.  Get into the Right Gear

Protective gear—like shin guards for soccer or hard-shell helmets for baseball—can reduce the risk or severity of an injury. However, it only works if it’s the right kind of gear.

Before sending your child onto the field, check to make sure the gear is in tip-top shape. If there are missing or broken buckles, padding is worn out, or it doesn’t fit correctly, replace it with equipment that offers better protection.


 

5. If the Shoe Fits …

A well-fitting and sport-appropriate pair of athletic shoes can reduce the risk of injuries like sprains and fractures. Depending on which sport your child plays, you will need to keep certain features in mind while shopping for shoes.

  • Basketball, tennis, volleyball—thick and stiff soles, high ankle construction, and midsole support that responds to quick starts and stops
  • Soccer—good-quality footbed with strong arch support; stud-type tread for ground your child will usually play on (soft, hard, firm, or turf); molded rubber cleats rather than screw-ons
  • Football and lacrosse—high ankle support, provides proper traction on a grassy field
  • Baseball and softball—support to prevent arch pain; don’t include metal baseball spikes for kids younger than 13
  • Running—provide shock absorption; match foot arch type (high, medium, low); replace shoe every 6 to 8 months

 

6. Let an Injury Heal

Make sure your child is completely healed before getting back in the game. Playing on an unhealed injury can slow down recovery and increase the risk of re-injury.

Follow instructions from a care provider closely. Make sure your child can practice hard without difficulty before letting them back into the game.