Organized sports activities: safety and benefits

March 11, 2012 Hema Nirmal, MD, FAAP

A lot of children are now enrolled in organized sports activities, and more and more children are starting at a younger age. Children are enticed by successful professional sports players and strive to be like them. Many parents enroll their children in organized sports activities with the hope that their child would get an athletic scholarship for college and go on to become a professional player. However, parents must realize that only a few children end up becoming successful professional players.

It is important for children to be physically active, and organized sports can be a part of this healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that children and adolescents who are physically active do well academically in school, have greater self-esteem, sleep well and have less behavioral/emotional problems. Children and adolescents who are active every day tend to develop less health problems like hypertension, obesity and hyperlipidemia , and grow to become healthy adults.

Here are some important ideas to keep in mind when your child is enrolled in organized sports activity:

  • Your child’s organized sports activity should be for the appropriate age group.
  • The activity chosen should consider the emotional and social maturity of the child.
  • Strength training as part of the sports activity can be effective if directed to the specific age group and may prevent injuries.
  • The activity need not be part of competitive sports. It can just include physical activity and conditioning.
  • The goals of the organized sports activity should not only include improving physical activity but should also include improving sportsmanship, avoiding conflicts and having fun.
  • The organized sports activity should teach about preventing injuries.
  • Parents should choose a coach who will not only be experienced in the sport but also be involved in the emotional well-being of the children, taking into consideration the child’s developmental level and emotional maturity.
  • It is also important that children be enrolled in different sports programs through the year and not concentrate on a single sport to avoid injuries to a specific muscle group which has become more common in recent years.

Prevention of injuries is important while playing sports, and this can be achieved through strength training, proper conditioning, and stretching exercises before playing. Despite attempts to protect children, parents must keep in mind that injuries can occur. These can vary from a simple musculoskeletal injury to serious injuries like concussion. It is important for the players, parents and the coaches to understand that if a player is injured, he /she should be evaluated immediately and, if needed, be evaluated by a medical professional before they return to the sport.

You can find more information about youth and physical activity here.


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