The Academy of Sports Dentistry recommends mouth guards for anyone playing a contact sport. They're mandatory for high school athletes in football, ice hockey, field hockey, and lacrosse. There are three basic types of mouth guards; your teen's coach or dentist can recommend the best kind for your teen.
Schools require a physical before your teen can participate in a sport. While general medical problems should be picked up through this type of check-up, school doctors also rely on your child's health history. Take responsibility for filling this out yourself, and do it carefully and accurately. Also be sure your teen is scheduled for a more thorough annual physical.
After your teen passes the physical and becomes involved in school sports, you should check out the following safety tips:
- Be certain that the sports program is safe. At the beginning of the season, come a little early to pick up your teen and watch the practice, and listen to the kids when they talk about the team, the coach, and the sport. They'll speak up when they—or their teammates—are being pushed too hard.
- Careful training and safety rules should be emphasized. Practice sessions and workouts should not be excessive. Players should be encouraged to stop playing when something hurts. Also, observe whether the kids feel a lot of pressure to win.
- Make note of safety gear. Does it seem adequate for the sport? Is it in good condition, or is it old and frayed? Are athletes shown how to wear it correctly? Is it required for every practice?
- Emphasize year-round conditioning. You might even find an activity to do as a family. Though training for a specific sport is part of the seasonal regimen of school, year-round, regular exercise such as swimming, cycling, in-line skating, or walking (all of which build muscle tone, flexibility, speed, and endurance) will get your young athlete in good shape. Then the specific sport training can emphasize skill-building rather than body-building.
- Keep your teen out of practice when she's sick—her reaction time will be slower, and thus her chances of injury are greater. Sports specialists also worry about any activity that increases the heart and respiratory rate while the body is fighting an illness. Viral illnesses may put the heart at risk and can lead to cardiac arrhythmia or heart palpitations during the time of the illness.
Girls' athletic teams sometimes wear less protective gear than boy's teams do. If you sense that your girl's team is not adequately protected, you can ask a school sports administrator why. Sometimes, parents are told that boys' sports have a greater contact element than girls' sports, and so protective gear is not necessary. However, you won't agree if you see the girls sustaining injuries during play (which proper equipment might have prevented).
Pain: Your Teen's Personal “Body Guard”
Though the benefits of playing sports far outweigh the drawbacks, sports injuries can lead to lifelong problems, so they should be taken seriously. Many teens who play interscholastic sports are injured each year, and one-quarter to one-third of these injuries are significant.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that weight lifting and body building be delayed until after puberty (see Boys and Puberty ). Until then, damage to the musculoskeletal system is possible.
Teach your teen to listen to pain. While an over-the-counter pain reliever may be okay to alleviate occasional soreness, get medical attention if he suffers from recurring pain.
If he gets injured during a game or at practice, your teen should remember “RICE”:
REST the injury.
Put ICE on the injury.
Use COMPRESSION to help reduce swelling.
ELEVATE the injured body part as much as possible.
Consult the coach for details of the injury, and check in with your doctor, who may want to take a look at the injury or get it X-rayed.