The life lessons and physical activity that children can gain from playing organized sports are positive and important aspects of gaining confidence, developing a healthy lifestyle and learning skills that extend far beyond the playing field.

But enjoying a game requires more than just showing up for practice. Parents and children should know how to stay safe at game time and beyond. May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to raise awareness about the benefits of getting active. Penny Shaw, director of Safe Kids Spartanburg, said parents should take care to guard kids’ health while they get in the game.

“Safe Kids definitely promotes being active,” she said.

Hydration is a critical part of any activity, whether it’s a team contact sport or play time at summer camp.

“If you are actively playing sports, you should be hydrating every 20 minutes,” Shaw said. “Keep water with you all the time, even at a summer sports camp.”

Shaw said approximately 60 million children ages 6 – 18 participate in organized athletics each year. While football and basketball have the highest number of injuries, Shaw said parents should make sure their children are protected as much as possible no matter what their chosen sport.

Overuse injuries, once the bane of adults, are now becoming more common in children. Shaw said specializing in one sport and playing it year round can contribute to that type of injury.

“These kids are still growing,” Shaw said. “A lot of parents mistake the fact that their child is injured to being a normal part of sports. They aren’t sustaining a secondary injury but a primary injury due to overuse. They need to rest.”

Play is the stuff of childhood, but Shaw said parents should keep athletics in perspective and work with coaches to protect young players.

“Make sure they are active, but make sure they are safe,” she said.

Find out more

See Safe Kids’ concussion guide for coaches and athletes at

Sports safety checklist 

Safe Kids shared the following checklist for parents. You can find an easy-to-use version in our print magazine, on newsstands.

Physicals and preparedness…

o I take my child to the doctor for an annual pre-participation physical evaluation before the sports season begins.

o My child’s coaches have our emergency contact information (phone numbers, doctor information and allergy information).

o I meet with my child’s coach before the first practice to share any history of medical conditions that may require special attention.

Warm-ups and stretching…

o I encourage my child to warm up and stretch before practices and games.


o I send my kids to practices and games with a water bottle. I encourage my children to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during and after play.

o My child’s coach has regular water breaks in place so that the kids are drinking plenty of fluids during practices and games.

o I know and look for the signs and symptoms of dehydration, and make sure that my athlete and the coach knows them as well. Symptoms include muscle cramping in the calves, back, arms or abdomen; faintness or dizziness;nausea and rapid heartbeat; collapse, emotional instability and very high body temperature.

Appropriate gear…

o My child has the right equipment and is wearing it for both practices and games. The right equipment may include helmets, shin guards, mouth guards, ankle braces, shoes with rubber cleats and sunscreen.

Concussion Awareness…

o I know and look for the signs and symptoms of a concussion, and make sure that my child and the coach know them as well.

o If my child is suspected of having a concussion, I make sure he or she is removed from play right away and stays out of the play until evaluated and released by a medical professional.

Read or Share this story: