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As youth sports begin, here are ways to limit injuries for kids

Posted at 6:37 AM, Apr 16, 2024

Spring sports are kicking into high gear. Little soccer players are lacing up their cleats. Little leaguers with big dreams are practicing their swing.

But for athletes large and small, staying on the field is about proper preparation.

I checked in with the head trainer for Detroit City FC about the do's and don'ts of minimizing sports injuries.

According to the CDC, 54% of children 6-17 years old participated in sports in 2020. All of that activity leads to millions of injuries.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 3.5 million children are treated for sports related injuries every year. With sprains, strains stress fractures among the most common.

Injuries are something Maxwell Murray knows all too well.

"I definitely had my fair share of injuries," Murray, the lifelong soccer player and Community/Youth Programs Coordinator with Detroit City FC, said. "Part of my playing career was stifled by some of my injuries."

Murray said he started playing soccer around the age of 3.

Maureen Lilla is DCFC's head trainer and works with DMC Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan. Together, they showed me how we can minimize injuries.

"What does a warmup do to help prevent injuries?" I asked Lilla.

"So the first thing is get your blood flowing. Get your muscles warm," she said.

It loosens joints and provides oxygen to muscles, making them less likely to tear during physical activity.

"The little guys, you can start with just some bodyweight activities and exercises to kind of start learning those body mechanics," she said.

Teens and weekend warriors can use bands here or weights to build strength. Ensuring proper form from an early age is also vital in limiting injuries no matter what the sport, and so is resting.

The American Academy of Pediatric recommends taking off at least one day a week and one month a year from any individual sport. They also emphasize wearing correct, well-fitting protective gear.

"Make sure that you're doing some stretching and a cool down and even more soft tissue work to make sure that you're starting that recovery," Lilla said.

Stretching after games or practice can help increase flexibility.

Then there's what you consume. Plenty of fluids during the activity to stave off dehydration - a real danger during spring and summer, and protein after the game or practice.

"It's going to help that muscle recover quicker and help hopefully prevent some injuries down the road," Lilla said.

Finally, kids should also be encouraged to listen to their body and to hit the sidelines when they're in pain. Maxwell says there is a lot more information available now compared to when he was a teen athlete. His advice?

"Be knowledgeable of, how to take care of themselves and take care of their bodies," he said.

That includes letting their coach know if they took an impact that is changing their vision, gate or is making them nauseous.

Those are signs of a concussion, and they need to be thoroughly examined before getting back in the action.

Another tip to raise a healthy athlete is to remind your child that their value or worth is totally separate from the success or challenges on the field, pitch or court.