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Sports injury prevention

Can sports injuries be prevented?

It has been estimated that at least one-half of sports injuries could have been prevented by the use of management tools that consider factors such as the environment of a particular sport and protection of the individual.
Environmental factors to be considered when planning sports activities include the following:

  • Sports Injury Prevention boybikeThe temperature of the environment (a cooler environment is best, when possible).
  • The playing surface (the more shock-absorbent the surface, the fewer injuries that may occur).
  • The proximity of motor vehicles for activities such as bicycling.
  • Proper maintenance of equipment used in the sport.
  • Firm enforcement of the rules.
  • Proper medical evaluation prior to participation in organized sports.

Protection of the individual includes the following:

  • Using protective devices such as pads, helmets, gloves, etc.
  • Monitoring increases in activity to prevent the child from doing "too much, too soon."
  • Using shoes appropriate for the sport.
  • Adequate rehabilitation of injuries before continuing to participate in a sport.

Safety gear and equipment:

Safety gear should be sport-specific and may include such items as goggles, mouthguards, shin-elbow-knee pads, and helmets. The safety gear worn by a child should fit properly. In addition, sports equipment (such as bats, baskets, and goals) should be in good working condition and any damage should be repaired or replaced. The playing area should be free from debris and water.

Sports Injury Prevention skatebrdPhysical checkup:

To make sure your child is physically fit to participate in a particular sport, your child's physician should conduct a "sports physical." These physicals can reveal your child's physical strengths and weaknesses and help determine which sports are appropriate. Most sports physicals for children include a health examination that measures height, weight, and vital signs, as well as check eyes, nose, ears, chest, and abdomen. In addition, your child's physician may perform an orthopaedic examination to check joints, bones, and muscles.


Starting a child in sports too young will not benefit the child physically. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children begin participating in team sports at age 6, when they better understand the concept of teamwork. However, no two children are alike, and some may not be ready physically or psychologically to take part in a team sport even at age 6. A parent should base his/her decision on whether to allow the child to take part in a particular sport based on the following:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Build
  • Physical development
  • Emotional development
  • Child's interest in the sport

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that late-developing teens avoid contact sports until their bodies have developmentally "caught up" to their peers' bodies.

The importance of hydration:

As your child participates in sports, he/she will sweat. This sweat must be replaced with equal amounts of fluids, usually 1 to 1 1/2 liters per hour of intense sports activity. Your child should drink fluids before, during, and after each practice or game. To avoid stomach cramps from drinking large amounts of fluids at once, encourage your child to drink about one cup of water (or a type of sports drink) every 15 to 20 minutes. Drinks to avoid include those with carbonation and caffeine.

The following are the most common symptoms of dehydration. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Thirstiness
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Slight weight loss

If your child exhibits signs of dehydration, make sure he/she receives fluids immediately. The symptoms of dehydration may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

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Call us

To speak with a sports medicine expert or request an appointment, call:

(414) 604-7512

Licensed athletic trainers and nurses are available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can leave a message anytime, and your call will be answered as soon as possible.

Request a speaker from our orthopedics and sports medicine team.

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Children's Hospital of Wisconsin offers sports nutrition counseling services to help patients and families who have concerns and questions about diet, hydration, sports injury recovery, and overall healthy eating for performance. Learn more.

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