Is Football Safe For Kids?
With proper coaching and equipment, the risk is minimal.
Ray McEwen is one of the men in charge of Sanford Stadium, where the University of Georgia Bulldogs play football. Over the years, he has seen college players dish out many head jarring tackles, the kind that sports shows love to include in their highlight films. The collision that scared McEwen the most was one that involved his son Brent. At the time, McEwen was the coach of an age group football team. Brent then 10, played linebacker. “One day in practice, a ball carrier shot through the line and Brent collided with him, helmet to helmet” McEwen says. “Both kids go down and didn't move. I remember someone saying, “Those kids are really hurt.”
Though Brent's helmet split in half, neither he nor the ball carrier was injured. Brent who went on to play football through college, never suffered a serious injury while playing. In fact, he sustained his worst football injury one day after practice. Brent and some friends were playing catch with a Nerf football when Brent tripped over his own helmet, fell and broke his arm.
THREE SAFETY FACTORS:
Three factors helped prevent Brent from being seriously hurt when he collided with the other player. Those three factors help explain why age-group football-when taught and managed correctly - is actually less dangerous, statistically speaking, than soccer. Proper equipment minimizes the danger of serious injuries. “Brent was wearing a water and air bladder helmet that was certified for college use,” McEwen says. “He did split the helmet, but the helmet took most of the blow for him.”
Proper technique helps kids avoid getting hurt. “Brent was taught that he should never use his helmet to make a tackle,” says McEwen. “You lead with your shoulder. Even though the ball carrier surprised him, Brent was turning his head away at the time of collision. That probably saved those boys from a concussion - or worse.”
FORCE = mass x acceleration, and kids don't generate much force. “Neither kid weighed one hundred pounds,” says McEwen. “And they couldn't run very fast. So it wasn't like Lawrence Taylor crashing into Emmitt Smith.”
SURPRISINGLY FEW INJURIES
Experts believe that as many as one million kids play age-group football in the United States. (There is no national body that oversees age-group football.) Studies show that most youth football programs are relatively safe. In a recent study, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission examined athletic injuries on a sport-by-sport basis. It found that organized football among 5-to-15-year-olds had 12 percent fewer injuries than organized soccer for the same age group. Football also had 50 percent fewer injuries than bike riding and 74
percent fewer than skateboarding.
GOOD EQUIPMENT IS THE KEY
“Kids do get hurt playing football'” says McEwen. “But if you put a kid in the right equipment, teach him the proper techniques, and play him against kids who are the same age and weight, it's a pretty safe sport.”
Fortunately, football equipment for kids has never been better. The same companies manufacture equipment for college and pro teams make equipment for kids. Beyond the standard helmet, pads (shoulder, knee, thigh, hips, tailbone) and rubber cleats, you can also put your kids in vests to protect their ribs and long Lycra girdles over all the padding to keep pads from slipping.
Football Injuries can be prevented if players use all safety gear properly and follow the rules of the game.
To help your child avoid inury while playing football, follow these safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, and other sports and health organizations.
*Before your child starts a training program or plays competitive football, take him/her to the doctor for a physical exam. The doctor can help assess any special injury risks your child may have.
*Make sure your child wears all protective safety gear every time he/she plays or practices. All tackle football players must wear: a helmet: pads for the shoulders, hips, tailbone and knees: thigh guards, and a mouth piece. Talk to your childs coach to find out what kind of cleats are recommended or required in your childs league. If your child wears glasses talk to your eye doctor about special eyewear for sports.
*Insist that your child warm up and stretch before playing.
*Teach your child not to play in pain. If your child gets injured, see your doctor. Follow all the doctors orders for recovery and get the doctors okay before your child returns to play. This is especially important for brain injuries - getting a second brain injury before the first one has healed can be fatal.
*Make sure first aid is available at all games and practices.
*Talk to and watch your child's coach. Coaches should enforce all the rules of the game. They should never allow illegal blocking (pulling a player down by the knees or grabbing the face mask), tackling from behind, or spearing ( using the top of the helmet to tackle.) Coaches should also encourage safe play and understand the special injury risk that young players face.
*Above all keep football fun. Putting too much focus on winning can make your child push too hard and risk injury.
"Tips For The Athletes"
*The most important thing is to Have Fun!
*Remember youth sports are only a game designed for your enjoyment. Play to please yourself and have a good time.
*Learning how to play the game is more important than winning and losing.
*Who you are as a person does not depend on your wins and losses.
*Treat other athletes and your coaches with respect. Everyone is trying their hardest.
*Some children grow faster than others and some have better coordination earlier than others. Everyone catches up eventually. Be patient.
*Honor the rules of the game.
*Be a good sport.
*Support your team mates.
*Always respect the Officials and his calls.
Dehydration: Three types of heat illness:
1) Heat cramps
2) Heat exhaustion
Heat Cramps: (Signs)
1) Usually occurs in the calf muscles
2) Occasional cramping of the abdominal muscles.
1) Rest in cool shaded area.
2) Drink diluted sports drink or juice.
3) Should rest and be held back until fully hydrated (may take several hours)
Heat Exhaustion: (Signs)
3) Pallor or flushing
4) Loss of coordination
6) Profuse sweating
8) Myalgia (aching muscles)
Immediate removal from activity placing athlete in the shade. Apply ice over large vessels in the axillae, groin and neck.
Suspicion of heat exhaustion should be prompt consideration of transport to hospital. Immediate rehydration should begin and continue for 24 hours. Have them drink water, sports drinks, juices.
HEAT STROKE: Heatstroke is a disturbance of the central nervous system, hypovolemic shock and extreme hyperthermia (105.8) with or without sweating.
If a child displays confusion, irritability or emotional instability, heatstroke should be suspected.
Rapid raising temperature.
1) Apply ice to the large vessel area axillae, neck and groin and transport immediately.
CAUSE OR RISK FACTOR FOR HEAT ILLNESS:
1) Inadequate Hydration, especially in the first two weeks of training can dehydrate the body.
2) Obesity and poor conditioning: Most deaths from heatstroke are from overweight football players. The unconditioned child generates more heat than does aerobically conditioned child.
3) Illness: Cystic fibrosis (concentrated sweat) abnormal hepatic, gastrointestinal and male reproductive systems and obstructive lung disease.
Congenial heart disease.
Ichthyosis (rare skin disease) excessive scales on the skin.
Excessive thyroid replacement
Antihistamines (reduces sweat rate)
Antibiotics - can cause drug fever.
PREVENTING HEAT ILLNESS:
a) ease into workouts - the first one to two weeks are important. Begin with shorts periods and gradually increase workout.
b) Children need longer time to acclimate than adults.
c) Shorter, more frequent workouts.
2) FLUID REPLACEMENT:
a) childrens thirst is not a good guide for proper hydration.
b) Instruct players to drink until full, about 30 minutes prior to workout.
c) Have breaks about every 20 minutes.
d) Drink water, sports drinks, electrolyte replacement drinks (sodium loss)
a) light porous shirts
b) Limit taping, padding and nonessential equipment (sweat bands, gloves, bandanas) to minimize heat storage.