We praise youth sports as one of the best ways to keep kids active, to keep them healthy, and to keep them social. Anyone who has played sports, has kids who play sports, or has seen a youth sporting event knows that they can be both exciting and contentious. Parents and coaches contribute to both, as a result, sports injuries occur.
“More than 2.5 million children per year suffer a have youth sports injury”
The excitement and demands, however, can lead to actions and words that don’t benefit the player and often injure them. Safe Kids Worldwide estimates that more than 2.5 million athletes under the age of 19 experience injuries every year. Youth players end up exhausted, injured, and mentally worn defeated. Could it be the words doing it to them?
Bodies Talk When Youth Sports Injuries Occur
Your body is a complex machine of muscles, tissues, nerves, and more. They are all designed to work as a cohesive unit that communicates with every function, movement, and part. If something hurts, the body is telling you that something is wrong. As parents and coaches, it is up to us to take the proper precautions and to ask the correct questions to find out why.
Knowing what youth sports injuries to look for and when to pull a player is something of which every parent and coach must be aware. Here are the warning signs that an athlete may need to be evaluated before continuing to play:
- Athlete is holding a part of their body
- The athlete is favoring one side or body part over another
- The player has hit his/her head
- They appear dazed or confused
- The player is limping or dragging
- Player is breathing harder than normal
- The player is crying or wincing with movement
If parents and coaches don’t listen to the signs, there kids will never make it to college sports, which is what many parents have in mind. Here is a list of the top things coaches, parents, and other players say that can cause severe sports injuries in youth players.
“Just walk it off”
This is the most common line you can hear at a sporting event. You can also hear it at playgrounds and in school gyms. “Just walk it off” is solid advice for a kid with a minor injury or hiccup, but it is not true for more severe injuries such as getting hit with the ball, hitting their head on the floor, or feeling sharp pains.
The young athlete’s body is saying it hurts or it’s injured. The young player expresses this pain or shows when performing. When a young player expresses that, it is up to the parent(s) and coaches to listen.
Top sports injuries a player must never push through
Under no circumstances must an athlete push through the pain or be forced to play if they have hit their head or their head has collided with an object. No – plain and simple. Of the 2.5 million sports injuries per year, 6% – roughly 135,000 – were or included a concussion.
- Muscle strains and tears
“Throw it harder”
The most common sporty injury for overhead athletes, which are swimmers, football, basketball, volleyball and tennis players to name a few, is a shoulder injury. The culprit for shoulder injuries is overuse. If a youth athlete is pitching or throwing slower because their shoulder hurts or is sore, they must stop the movement and allow the shoulder to rest.
Signs and symptoms of shoulder sports injuries in athletes:
- Limited range of motion
- Mild to severe pain
- Swelling and inflammation
- Soreness that does not go away after 1 or 2 days
If an athlete experiences shoulder pain that will not subside or is exacerbated by activity, he/she needs to see a professional. A visit to the doctor, X-rays, diagnosis, physical therapy and a shoulder pain plan can prevent young athletes from suffering permanent shoulder injuries that leave them on the disabled list indefinitely.
“What are you – stupid?”
There is no easy way to swallow that line when you hear it come out of a parent’s mouth. This is a good example of a mental youth sports injury.
Not only is calling your player “stupid” insulting and degrading, but it has no regard for the athlete’s mental well-being. Sure, calling your child names has nothing to do with physical sports injuries, but it says a lot about a player’s emotional well-being, not only independently and with his/her teammates.
Critique, not criticism
Plain and simple, you are ruining your child’s life. Yes, it is harsh, but it is true. By no means am I saying that we are raising kids in a society that can’t accept criticism, I am saying that “stupid” is never effective, it is not a way to empower kids, and it only teaches them how to treat his/her teammates. Honestly, when you are surrounded by other parents in the stands or bleachers, you look like the stupid one, not your child. If you want respect and success from your player, you have to show it.
To be the devil’s advocate for you for a moment; times like these can often arise out of frustration and disappointment, but they are devastating for your child and your relationship with your child. It is not true the words don’t hurt. They do, and they can leave kids feeling deflated and uninspired about the game, which is why you are yelling at them in the first place.
What you can say after blowing up
If you find yourself inflicting emotional harm on your child because of his/her game performance, follow these steps:
- Ask yourself why you are mad and why it matters.
- Consider what labeling your child means.
- Ask yourself if the language you used toward your child has a positive or negative impact on your relationship.
- Apologize. Don’t be afraid to admit you are wrong.
- Express your frustration in a positive way that allows both sides to speak about their concerns.
Research has been conducted about what you should say to kids to have the most impact on their performance.
Before the event: have fun, play hard, and say I love you.
After the event: did you have fun, I am proud of you, and I love you.
“You play better than that kid!”
If you want your kid to play college ball, they won’t with this kind of statement echoing in their ears. The coach and the team WILL NOT tolerate that kind of attitude from players. The person from whom the youth athlete gets that attitude is you.
It is not okay to degrade your player, and it is not okay to do it to other players, especially if they can hear you. Not only are you asking to be removed from the stands or bleachers, but you are preparing your young player to act the same way. It won’t get them anywhere. What it does get them is kicked off the team, benched, or passed up for the team altogether.
Teaching a better player
Teaching your youth athlete to stick up for him or herself is fine, and to be outspoken about dirty plays or bad calls, but it is not okay for others players to be criticized and ostracized on the field, floor, or court. If you act like a bad sport, so will your child, and at the end of the day, no one will want you or your child on the team anyway. When your child doesn’t get the chance to play, he/she will never make it to college teams anyway.
With our youth sports performance clients, building internal motivation and self-evaluation is a primary goal. This process takes a lot of time, as many kids are lacking self-esteem and need direction building self-evaluation skills.
What to do if you see poor playing
It is common for parents to bring bad plays, bad calls, and concerns to the coach’s attention, but that is it. Parents shouldn’t be interfering with coaches, bullying other players, and teaching their kids how to treat other players with disrespect.
In Conclusion: Advice from Dr. John
Injuries are not always physical. They are emotional too, not only to your player but to other players on the team as well. You have the power to avoid many of these injuries, but you have to first recognize what language or habits you or the coach may have that are contributing to or worsening them in the first place. Read more about ways you can prevent common youth sports performance.