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Back to School, Back to Sports, Time to Huddle Up About Sports Safety

Sports Safety Blog

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

For many kids, back to school means back to sports. Youth sports are, and should always be, a valuable experience, filled with challenges, competition and fun. But too many kids are stuck on the sidelines because of an injury that is preventable. In 2013, 1.24 million kids sustained a sports injury severe enough to go to the emergency room.

As we begin the new school year, Safe Kids is teaming up with Johnson & Johnson to keep kids healthy and injury-free so they can reach their full potential. We conducted a survey of parents, coaches and young athletes to explore how the current culture of sports may be leading to unnecessary injuries, and how that culture needs to change.

Here are three ways to get started.

  • Put an end to dirty play.One in four young athletes reported it is normal to commit hard fouls and play rough to "send a message" during a game. This norm leads to a disturbing number of injuries: 33 percent of athletes report being hurt as the result of "dirty play" from an opponent. Sports teach valuable lessons and should be competitive and entertaining but we have to move away from a "winning at all costs" mentality that is actually detrimental to the health and development of our young athletes.
  • Let's give coaches the training they need and want. One in four coaches say they don't take any specific actions to prevent sports injuries. Less than half of coaches say they have received certification on how to prevent and recognize sports injuries. Shouldn't there be more training for coaches to ensure that they are well versed in the proper techniques for top performance and injury prevention?
  • Teach young athletes to speak up when they are injured.About 42 percent of players reported they have hidden or downplayed an injury during a game so they could keep playing. We can remove the terms "taking one for the team", "suck it up" and "playing through an injury" from the dialogue. At the end of the day, young players must feel it's OK to tell coaches, parents and other players that they've been hurt and it's time to sit it out.

Changing the culture in sports isn't about limiting kids. It's about creating an atmosphere where our young athletes can compete, have fun and reach their full potential. Let's get the conversation going. Working together, we can keep our kids active, strong and safe so they can enjoy the sports they love for a lifetime.

Learn more at safekids.org.

I'd love to hear what you think. Have your children ever hidden a sports injury so they can stay in the game?