In recognition of March being National Athletic Trainers’ Month, the Mālama Ola Athletic Healthcare Department offers a few tips for increasing safety in physical activities.
The educational benefits of physical activity through athletics, physical education, performing arts and student activities have been well established in research. Physical Activity can improve cognitive function. Regular exercise has positive affects with mental, social, and emotional health and wellbeing, leading to higher levels of self-esteem, increased goal setting ability, and helps to develop both leadership and collaboration skills. Enjoyment of physical activity at a young age can foster behaviors which may improve health over a life span.
- Before the start of any vigorous, high contact or high-risk activity keiki should have a pre participation physical with their personal medical provider. The goal is to identify concerning findings that can lead to injury, worsen an otherwise well-controlled medical problem or identify a problem that can lead to catastrophic injury.
- Begin training for the activity well in advance of the first day of practice. Progressively increase functional skills and overall cardiovascular fitness, ideally at least 4 weeks before the start of the season. A steady acclimatization can help prevent injuries.
- Ensure that school and supervising staff are aware of medical conditions that may require special attention such as asthma.
While participating in physical activities:
- Ensure the program has an emergency action plan and has current contact numbers in case of injury or illness
- Hydrate. Encourage keiki to drink fluids throughout the school day. Send keiki to practice and games with a water bottle and encourage them to stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during and after play. Encourage athletes to drink fluids 30 minutes before activity begins and every 15-20 minutes during activity.
- Encourage keiki to warm up and cool down before and after activity. Start with 5-10 minutes of light jogging, warm up drills, and stretching appropriate for the activity. After activity a similar cool down helps to prevent muscle soreness.
- Encourage good nutritional habits: Encourage keiki to eat breakfast and lunch. Consider sending them to school with a healthy snack they could eat before practice.
- Make sure athletes use properly fitted equipment in both practices and games. This may include helmets, shin guards, mouth guards, ankle braces, shoes with rubber cleats and sunscreen.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of concussions and have your keiki evaluated by a medical provider if any symptoms develop.
- Encourage keiki to tell coaches, activity supervisors, or medical staff such as athletic trainers about any pain, injury, or illness they may have during or after any practices or games.
Recovery from training and competition plays an important role in the overall success and well-being for all ages and skill levels. The ability to recover quickly and efficiently between bouts of physical activity can assist athletes in performing at their optimal level for the next practice or game.
- Rest: Make rest a priority. Sleep is crucial to repair and restore body function. Lack of adequate sleep can lead to decreased physical performance, decreased academic performance, slows recovery from injury and negative effects on mental health.
- Refuel: Encourage a well-balanced healthy meal within 1-2 hours following activity.
In recent years, medical providers have seen a significant increase in overuse injuries in children related to sports. When a child participates in just one sport or activity throughout the year, he or she continually uses the same muscle groups and applies unchanging stress to specific areas of the body. This can lead to muscle imbalances that, when combined with overtraining and inadequate periods of rest, put children at serious risk for overuse injuries.
Many overuse injuries in children can be prevented by avoiding overdoing any single sport, and to give growing bodies adequate rest between practices or games.
- Limit the number of teams in which your child is playing in one season. Kids who play on more than one team of the same sport at the same time are especially at risk for overuse injuries.
- Consider not allowing your child to play one sport year-round — taking regular breaks and playing other sports is essential to skill development and injury prevention.
- Athletes should take at least one or two days off each week from any particular sport.
- Participate in a balanced training program. Avoid highly repetitive movements when possible and allow plenty of time for recovery.
- Athletes should be encouraged to participate in multiple sports or physical activities. Participating in multiple sports enhances athletic performance, reduces injury risk, and most importantly allows them to have fun.
National Federation of State High School Associations
You snooze you lose: Importance of sleep for students
National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute
Find helpful resources tailored specifically for parents, coaches, young athletes and more.
Safe Kids Worldwide
Sport safety tips
Project Play Aspen Institute
Youth sports facts – Benefits
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Overuse injuries in children
National Council of Youth Sports
Stop sports injuries
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