Youth Sports: All Fun and Games or All Fun and Pains?
In our society, your first sports game is almost like a right of passage. You will not be a successful child unless you find yourself on a team named after an animal, coached by your mom or dad, with an obnoxiously colored jersey. But over the past few years the intensity of these youth leagues have greatly increased, along with the number of injuries the players are sustaining. Concussions especially are an injury that many children are encountering, and they can be the most detrimental with or without treatment. What can we do to ensure that this next generation will have enough brain power to carry on in our society? Some of the rules need to change and we need to demand those policies. First of all, coaches should be required to take safety training at all levels of play. They need to know how to coach their players the right way to tackle, play a ball, or react to an attack. Next, the players should also be required to go through safety training. It is one thing to have your coach tell you the right and wrong way to do something, but it is totally different when a professional tells you about the consequences for you and someone else if you make a wrong a move. And then it would also be beneficial to change legislation and prohibit any type of intense contact in sports until the age of 12. At this point, children are reaching a time where their physical development is slowing down. Yes they can still get injured, but the damage will not be as bad. Youth sports are meant to teach children discipline, respect, and teamwork all while having fun, not cause them to get injuries that will automatically set them back for the rest of their lives.
Youth leagues need to implement a new policy where their coaches cannot train players unless they are trained and certified in safety and injury prevention. This rule will not only ensure that every coach knows the precautions needed to be taken within their sport, but it will also emphasize the importance of knowing how to play with the smallest chance of injury. As of right now, there is “no mandated national coaching education program [that] exists in the United States for youth sports” and we are one of the only major sporting countries who do not have this piece of legislation. This means that it is a very likely situation that your coach or your child’s coach does not know how to properly provide any type of first aid to an injured player. The American College of Sports Medicine believes that all coaches at all levels should be required by some type of policy to at least pass a minimum safety training course so they know what to do in the most common of situations. This should be the absolute minimum amount of training that a coach should have. There needs to be injury prevention courses taken as well, so the first aid training is less likely to be needed. It is a coach’s responsibility to be able to teach his or her players how to properly protect themselves and others.
Players also need to be appropriately trained on how to play it safe in their sport. I understand that injuries are bound to happen and it is apart of the game, but there are many injuries that could be easily prevented if the athlete had the proper knowledge. Even the professionals are constantly getting refreshed on how to play their sport in the most injury-free way possible. The National Football League has been revisiting and rewriting their tackling rules over the past couple of years. NFL referees, like head official Walt Anderson, are working with commissioner Roger Goodell to prevent the head injuries that are popular in football games. The new rule states that the defense cannot use his helmet to hit an offensive, defenseless player in the head or neck. This change is going to require those professional athletes to relearn how to tackle in certain situations. Now that they are aware of the new consequences they can go into practice and train themselves on how to hit someone in the safest (is there a safe way?) possible. This type of training needs to be passed all of the way down to the elementary football leagues. Those little players are being taught to hit, and are often using their helmets to attack because it is the strongest part of themselves at that age. That is causing a lot of head injuries in little boys who are not fully developed, and the result is severe differences in mental capacity when older. There is a video that shows that NFL players who played tackle football at a younger age suffer from more severe brain damage than those who did not. Because of this, a piece of legislation needs to be put in place that requires players to complete the proper safety training for their sport before being allowed to step onto the field or court.Athletes need to be able to recognize that their actions cannot only harm themselves but other players around them as well, and they can be held accountable for any injuries they may cause.
The age at which children are starting with organized sports is getting younger and younger as time goes on. This can be a leading cause in injuries sustained by young athletes. According to Nationwide Children’s Sports Medicine, sport specialization at a very young age can “predispose young athletes to overuse injuries.” If children of a young age would stick to exercising in less organized and less competitive manners than the number of injuries would not be as high. Children at the ages of 5 to 7 are nowhere near full physical development, causing their bodies to be greatly affected by any injuries sustained at such young ages. This is why intense contact sports should be limited until about 7th grade, or age 12, when those children have a better awareness of their bodies and their actions. And if there are any injuries sustained during this time they are less likely to as detrimental if the child were younger because of the progress the body had made development wise.
Being a part of a team for young children is a milestone in their lives that they will never forget. It is the first time they get to experience the pure joy of a competition and being successful along your friends. But the consequences of starting too soon or too intensely can be life altering. Signing up for any sport means understanding that there is a risk for injury, but that does not mean that the player and coach should be unaware of how to avoid certain injuries. Coaches need to get certified in order to be aware of all situations that their players may be involved in. It is then their responsibility to relay that information to their athletes and train them properly. Every athlete needs to know what the dangers of their sport include, and how to avoid those as best possible. Especially at a young age, the players should have extensive training if they are going to put their bodies at risk. Youth sports are meant to help children learn how to work with others while getting quality exercise, but if that causes a life-altering injury than is it really worth it? The answer is no. So go out to your youth sports leagues and demand a change in their policy. Take it to the next step and demand a change in local legislation for everyone who is affected.
“ACSM Initiatives.” ACSM. American College of Sports Medicine, n.d. Web. 8 May 2016.
Farrey, Tom. “Study Cites Youth Football for Issues.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 25 Jan. 2015. Web. 8 May 2016.
“Kid’s Sports Injuries: The Numbers Are Impressive.” Nationwide Children’s. Nationwide Children’s Hospital, n.d. Web. 10 May 2016.
“New NFL Rules Designed to Limit Head Injuries.” NFL.com. National Football League, 26 July 2012. Web. 10 May 2016.
Straus, Lindsey Barton. “First-Aid: Many Youth Coaches Lack Training.” MomsTeam. N.p., 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 6 May 2016.