Are Your Kids’ Sports Safe?

Four of the safest sports for kids and those that come with the greatest risk of injury.

These days it’s not uncommon for kids as young as 2 and 3 years old to be involved in sports. Many times, these early-age sports are more to fulfill a parent’s dream than the child’s, but regardless of why, kids are starting sports earlier and earlier in life. Saturdays, Sundays, and weekday afternoons get taken up with practices, games, and tournaments of soccer, baseball, gymnastics, dance, and more.

But before you sign your child up for the next little league team, you may want to consider what sports are deemed safest for kids and which come with the most risk for both short-term and long-term injury.

Go for the Low

As a parent, you want to protect your child from harm. When it comes to risk of injury, here are a few of the safest sports.

Swimming. Once a child learns how to swim and understands water safety, swimming is a great option as a competitive sport. It’s great exercise and gentle on the joints. Using proper stroke techniques and getting adequate rest between practices can help prevent shoulder injuries. Even when your child knows how to swim, make sure a trained lifeguard is always on duty.

Volleyball. A second sport with a low injury rate is volleyball. Both boys and girls can join a volleyball team, but many schools just offer girls volleyball. For some reason, girls are more likely to get injured while playing than boys, so take caution! Bumping, setting, and hitting the ball are all skills your child will learn while working as a team.

Golf. Don’t dismiss the sport of golf for kids. Another low-impact, non-contact activity, golf can be played individually or as a team. College scholarships are currently plentiful for female golfers. Learning proper swing technique is important for preventing injury to the shoulders, back, hips, and knees.

Tennis. Another competitive sport that ranks low on the injury scale is tennis. Played either individually or in pairs, tennis is challenging, both mentally and physically. Because of its low risk for injury, tennis, like the other low-risk sports listed above, is a life sport, meaning your child can learn it at a young age and play it his or her whole life. Proper technique and rest between practices can help prevent the likelihood of injury to the elbow or shoulder.

Avoid the High

Sports that come with the most risk for injury are those that involve the most contact with other players and have the greatest impact on joints.

Football. It may be the most popular sport in America, but it’s also the one that comes with the greatest risk for harm. With twice as many reported injuries as basketball, football players are likely to suffer head, neck, knee, ankle, and numerous other muscle or bone injuries. It’s the head trauma that’s most dangerous and concerning. Because of the nature of the sport, avoiding head trauma altogether is virtually impossible.

Basketball. He shoots, he scores! Basketball is another contact sport that comes with its fair share of injuries. Sprains, strains, fractures, ACL tears, and even head trauma are possible, but the greatest risk is injury to the ankle as you run, pivot, jump, and shoot the ball.

Soccer. Participation in the sport of soccer has grown dramatically in the past 30 years. Both boys and girls can enjoy playing this popular game, but be prepared for injury. While football is the most dangerous sport for boys, soccer comes with the most risk for girls. Knee injuries are the most common reason for sitting the season out on the bench, but ankle sprains, upper leg muscle strains, and head injuries from heading the ball are also good possibilities.

Baseball/Softball. Getting hit with the ball, bat, or by other players are the main causes of injury in the games of baseball and softball, but you’ll also deal with overuse injuries to the arms and shoulders from repetitive pitching and throwing. Improper technique and lack of rest contribute to overuse injuries. Using proper form and not playing year-round offers the greatest protection against these frequent overuse injuries.

Lacrosse. More and more kids are signing up for lacrosse teams these days, but be aware of the risk for injury. High collision rates lead to injuries of the knees, ankles, and upper legs. Approximately 10 percent of the injuries involve concussions, but the scariest injury is a blow to the chest that can harm the heart.