By Ker’Shyra Myrick
While injuries are a part of sports – and kids are going to be sidelined because of them – it’s more important than ever that the proper steps are taken to ensure a safe return to the action.
In order for that safe transition back following an injury, it is important that coaches, trainers and program administrators establish an environment that emphasizes safety at all times; that young athletes are taught to report – not hide – injuries; and that athletes are never allowed to come back from injury before they have been medically cleared to do so.
“Most sports organizations have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to coaches that do not create a positive culture around health and helping athletes stay healthy,” says Dr. Julianne Schmidt, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Georgia and co-director of the UGA Concussion Research Laboratory and the Biomechanics Laboratory. “Coaches are there to create an environment where kids feel welcome and comfortable telling someone they are injured.”
With many young athletes participating in multiple sports, and often taking part in extra training sessions, it is as important as ever these days for coaches to emphasize safety.
“A coach’s No. 1 priority is to make sure their kids are healthy,” Schmidt says. “Parents should not tolerate anyone who does not prioritize the health and safety of their kids.”
When athletes sustain injuries they naturally want to get back to the action as quickly as possible. But doing so before an injury has healed completely can lead to a return trip to the sidelines – and an even longer recovery period involving more missed games.
“Returning to a sport too early is not good for the athlete,” Schmidt says. “Yes, we all want the athlete to return quickly, but also as safe as possible. Taking them out of the sport environment can be hard, but putting them back before they are ready is even worse. Waiting until they are fully healed and ready to go back can reduce the risk of re-injury. It may seem like they are waiting a long time, but you’re actually saving time in the long run because waiting reduces the risk of the young athlete being re-injured again by letting the injury heal properly.”
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