How to Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports

How to Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports
Explore this Article
Using Protective Equipment
Teaching Players Proper Safety
Reducing the Level of Contact
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References

Sports are fun as well as great experience. Kids who play sports will learn lasting lessons about being active, but also about cooperation, adversity, and respect. However, some sports – contact sports like football, lacrosse, and hockey – are more risky than others. As a parent or coach, you can help protect kids in these sports by ensuring that they have the right equipment, play safely, and aren’t over-exposed to contact.

Part 1 of 3:
Using Protective Equipment

Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 1
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 1
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Wear the right gear. Contact sports usually require some kind of protective equipment, i.e. pads, helmets, shin guards, facemasks, and others. This is for good reason. No one should participate in a contact sport without proper gear. Make sure that your children or players are all sporting the right items. [1] X Research source In soccer, for example, players wear shin guards covered with long socks. In high-contact sports like American football and hockey, the gear covers almost all the body: helmet, shoulder and abdominal pads, elbow and knee pads, and sometimes shin guards. Make sure that the equipment fits properly. Usually this means that the item covers the area it is meant to protect. It should also be snug. Do not let kids “grow into” equipment.[2] X Research source Gear should be in good condition. Kids should never wear cracked or broken pieces of equipment. Inspect gear frequently to catch and replace broken items.
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 2
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 2
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Use helmets or head protection. Helmets protect kids’ most important body part during contact sports: the head and brain. Studies show that concussions are much more damaging than we once thought, and children are especially vulnerable. [3] X Research source Using proper head protection is vital. Always use helmets designed for the sport you’re playing. A football helmet is not appropriate for hockey, rugby, or boxing.[4] X Research source Check to be sure that the helmets meet safety standards set by the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission. Use head guards even in light-contact sports. Players often go without protection in soccer, for example, despite head blows from “heading” the ball. Opt for safety, instead. Helmets should fit snugly on the head and not shift backward or forward.
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 3
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 3
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Sport the right shoes. Contact sports also require certain kinds of footwear. Soccer, American football, lacrosse, and other sports use cleated shoes, for example, while hockey uses ice skates. The right footwear will let kids to play the game correctly, while avoiding trips and falls. [5] X Research source Replace shoes, cleats, and skates that are worn out and no longer supportive.
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 4
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 4
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Protect other vulnerable areas. Don’t forget to have players protect other vulnerable areas, like the eyes, face, and mouth. These areas are not always included in the formal “gear” but should be covered. As a coach, you may have to have kids get certain items on their own. [6] X Research source [7] X Research source Football and hockey helmets may already have built-in facemasks. Kids can also get eye shields that attach to the helmet or even protective goggles. Mouth-guards protect the teeth, tongue, and mouth and sell for a few dollars at sporting goods stores. Have your kids or players dip the guard into hot water for about a minute, then remove and bite down on it. This should mould the guard to their teeth. Make sure players remove retainers before playing, too. Consider a neck guard for hockey, to protect against accidental skate cuts. Boys may need a jockstrap and protective cup for the groin.
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Part 2 of 3:
Teaching Players Proper Safety

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Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 5
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Teach the rules and proper techniques. In sports, rules are in place to protect. Tell your kids or players to think of them not as limits but as safeguards so that everyone can enjoy the game, stay on the field or ice, and avoid injury. Teach proper techniques and behavior, as well. [8] X Research source Warn players about all illegal moves and infractions, like tripping, kneeing, chop-blocking, elbowing, and late hits. If the sport is American football or rugby, kids should also know proper tackling technique. In youth football tacklers should have their heads up, for example, engaging the opponent with the shoulder pads. They should NOT lead with their head. For hockey, young players might be allowed to body check and should know the right technique, too. To give a clean check, you want your shoulder to make contact with your opponent’s chest. You are not allowed to hit with your elbows or stick, you can’t leave your feet, and you can’t make contact with the head.
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 6
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 6
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Teach kids to be aware at all times. As hockey players learn from a young age, “keep your head up”! Young players should be aware of what’s going on at all times during a game, even if they are not directly involved in the play. Not paying attention can in fact lead to accidental or non-accidental injuries. Warn players never to put themselves in vulnerable positions, if they can. In American football, for example, the kickoff can be a dangerous play and requires extra awareness.[9] X Research source Wide receivers should be careful about running patterns where they can be blindsided, like a crossing route. In hockey, puck carriers shouldn’t look down when stick handling, because they open themselves up to devastating body checks. Hockey players should also be very careful when going into corners to get loose pucks, since a check from behind can send them head-first into the boards.
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 7
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 7
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Instill respect for others. While players have to be aware, they also have to pay look out for other players and their safety. This is basic respect. A player might be able to hit an opponent from the blindside. It might even be legal. But taking advantage of a vulnerable player is not respectful or good sportsmanship. Some contact sports have “cultures of violence.” Big hits and intimidation are praised. Players learn by example that they should target opponents, “lay them out,” or “destroy” them. As a parent or coach, warn and discourage children who make dangerous plays and don’t praise them. Say something like, “You hit number 20 from behind. That was dangerous and illegal; it’s not OK to take advantage of someone who’s vulnerable. Hit cleanly the next time.” Respect is especially important in sports like hockey and lacrosse, where players have sticks. Teach players that they should NEVER use a stick as a weapon against an opponent.
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Part 3 of 3:
Reducing the Level of Contact

Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 8
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 8
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Limit contact to games. Want a simple way to reduce injury in contact sports? Reduce contact. You can do this in several ways, one of which is by removing contact from everything but the game. That means no contact in practice, drills, or informal scrimmages. Try going to touch-only practices in football. In hockey or lacrosse, ban hitting in practices and scrimmages. Limiting contact to games should reduce all kinds of injuries, like concussions, breaks, sprains, and muscle tears.[10] X Research source Reducing the number of blows to the head is important, particularly as we learn more about the effects of concussions on the brain. Getting rid of contact in practice could lower the total blows to the brain by ½. A study in football also showed that players take more low-level blows to the head in practice than in games.[11] X Research source
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 9
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 9
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Alter the rules. Another way to protect players in contact sports is to alter the rules slightly. Some people might argue that changing the rules will “undermine” the game. This is not necessarily true. Hitting and contact are key parts of some games like rugby. But it can be reduced in others without affecting the overall sport. In a youth league, try raising your concerns with league administrators and propose safer rules. Get rid of heading in your soccer league. You’ll actually be in line with the US Soccer Federation’s new guidelines for youth leagues.[12] X Research source Lacrosse and hockey are not always played with hitting, either, and usually restrict body-checking until about 12 to 15 years of age. Women’s hockey normally does not allow body checks, even at the highest levels.[13] X Research source Switch to flag-football. Some communities in the US have started to eliminate tackle football in favor of non-contact kinds, at least for kids.[14] X Research source
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 10
Image titled Protect Kids Playing Contact Sports Step 10
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Switch to non-contact sports. The easiest way to protect kids in sports is to remove contact entirely. Kids don’t need contact in order to benefit from playing a sport. They can learn all of the same lessons about teamwork, winning, losing, competition, and sportsmanship from non-contact kinds. Consider a team game like baseball, basketball, or volleyball. Field hockey is a fun and exciting game, as well. Individual non-contact sports are great for exercise and learning, too, like tennis, swimming, and track and field events.
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