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Healthy Balance

Youth Sports: Health & Safety Resources

my son playing baseball at risk for little league elbowWhen your kid plays sports, there’s so much to think about. You have to get them to practice, figure out how to feed them, and make sure they’ve got the right equipment. Youth sports can also make you worry about your child’s health and safety.

Pros of Amateur Play

Playing a sport, of course, offers so many great benefits. Your child gets exercise, acquires physical skills, overcomes challenges, and learns to operate in a team. Games expend energy and relieves stress.

Active kids tend to be healthy kids. Susan Werner, MD, a pediatrician treating kids in Culpeper, advises “all children to try to spend at least 60 minutes a day, year-round, doing something that makes you sweat or your heart beat harder.” Playing in a sport can accomplish that goal.

The Risks of Youth Sports

But youth sports have risks, too. No matter the age or level of play, a young athlete can:

  • Dehydrate
  • Break bones and strain muscles
  • Get a concussion
  • Develop overuse injuries that stunt growth
  • Experience pressure to perform

Make the Most of the Sports Physical

If you have concerns about your child staying safe and healthy, talk to a pediatrician.

Usually schools require a signed form from your child’s primary care doctor. Make the most of this sports physical. Come prepared with all of your questions.

What does a sports physical look for? “A sports physical looks for issues that might prevent a child from safely participating in sports,” says Susan Gray, MD. She sees teens and young adults in Charlottesville.

This targeted exam looks at your child’s:

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Muscle movement
  • Balance
  • Mobility
  • Coordination

Usually, this kind of exam is pretty straightforward. But parents and caregivers still need to fill in the gaps.

Gray explains that, “It’s really important for parents to share the child’s history and the family’s medical history. We recommend sports visits happen within a child’s medical home, with their regular doctor or NP, the person who has access to all their records.”

Avoiding COVID

Athletic teams get physically close. This increases the risk of virus transmission.

No one wants to get COVID or the flu and miss out on games. Werner lists some steps you and your child can take:

  • Get vaccinated against COVID and flu
  • Don’t share towels or water bottles
  • Take a home COVID test if your child has sore throat, cough, fever, or diarrhea

Read on for more resources, tips, and advice for helping your young athlete stay in the game.

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