5 Ways to Keep Your Little Athlete Healthy

Bumps and bruises happen, but so do more serious problems. At least 2 million kids under age 19 go to the E.R. for sports and recreation injuries each year, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tommy John, D.C., coauthor of Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance, shares how to protect your kiddo.

Young Boy Playing Baseball on Field
Photo: JoeSAPhotos/Shutterstock

1. Don't specialize

Focusing on a certain skill, like pitching in baseball, can cause serious strain and injury. Before age 13, your kid should try as many sports as possible rather than playing a single sport all year. It's most helpful for him to do activities that combine general movements like standing on one leg, squatting, and skipping.

2. Serve good fats

Her muscles and nervous system are developing rapidly before adolescence hits, so work in healthy fats like eggs, butter, nuts, and avocados, which support that growth.

3. Watch for warning signs

Your kid might not tell you he's injured, especially in front of teammates, so pay attention to whether he's touching or rubbing an area. If you suspect something's wrong, privately ask open-ended questions such as, "Why do you keep pushing on your hip?" instead of, "Are you hurt?"

4. Respond to injuries

You have a 15-minute window to ice a hurt area. After that, icing will prevent blood flow and slow healing. Either way, elevate the injured body part and move it as much as possible without increasing pain. As soon as your child feels better, have her get up and move her other limbs, which will accelerate recovery. If the area continues to hurt, contact your pediatrician.

5. Know when to worry

Unless it's a dislocation or a fracture, which require immediate attention, you shouldn't have to rush to the doctor. Injuries in the "soft" area of the body, such as the fleshy part of the biceps or the thigh, should clear up in a couple of days; pain in a "hard" area, like close to a joint or the kneecap, should improve within a week or two. If it worsens or lingers beyond that, get it checked out by your pediatrician.

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