10 Sport Safety Tips

By James A. Shapiro, MD

Sports have significant potential social, emotional, psychological, and physical benefits for every participant. However, an injury can have the exact opposite effect. A little consideration and effort can help the athlete get the benefits of sports and will minimize the risk of injury.

1.  Make sure the athlete is ready to play.

  • Every athlete should be seen by their doctor to make sure there are no potential medical conditions that would place the athlete at risk.
  • The athlete should have emergency information immediately available.
  • The emergency contact person’s name, relationship to the athlete, and phone number.
  • The physician’s phone number and the hospital where he/she works.
  • List of medications.
  • List of allergies
  • The athlete should have a list of medical problems, medication(s) being taken, and any allergies. If medications may be needed in an emergency, like an Epipen or an inhaler, make sure they are immediately available.

2.  Warm up and stretch before play

  • A warm up simply means the athlete has raised the temperature of the muscles and prepared them for more activity. This can be done with something like a light jog or jumping jacks.
  • Stretching before should be dynamic. This too prepares the muscle for more activity and helps prevent muscle tears or strains.

3.  Cool down and stretching after play.

  • A cool-down aids the body in returning to its resting state.
  • Stretching at the end may help to decrease soreness. This is typically static.

4.  Hydration.

  • Drinking should take place all day long.
  • During play, the athlete should drink something no more than every 15-20 minutes.
  • Water is usually the best drink, but depending on the duration and intensity of play and the temperature out, sport drinks may be used alternately with water.

5.  Wear correct attire and use appropriate equipment.

  • It is important to dress for the temperature. There are many companies that make clothing specific for a sport and different temperature from very hot and humid to freezing cold.
  • Appropriate equipment can’t be emphasized enough. The equipment must fit correctly and should be of a good quality.

6.  Rest.

  • Helps to avoid overuse injuries
  • Allows to body to recover.
  • Gives the chance for the brain to reset and focus.
  • Rest is treatment.

7.  Be prepared for possible injuries.

  • Make sure there is a first aid kit immediately available. Depending on the sport, consider have a cane, crutches, and/or a splint available.
  • Understand R.I.C.E.

i.     R – rest

ii.     I – ice helps to reduce pain and swelling. Apply to the injured area as soon as possible after the injury. If applying directly to the skin, don’t use for more than 15 minutes at a time to prevent frostbite.

iii.     C – compression to help reduce swelling, to help an area feel more stable,, and to hold the ice in place.

iv.     E – elevation to help reduce swelling. Place the injured area higher than the injured athlete’s heart.

8.  Be alert to possible brain injury; Concussion.

  • If you participate in a sport that has a higher likelihood of a possible concussion, consider getting an ImPACT test before starting your sport.
  • Be alert to the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
  • If a concussion is suspected, immediately stop playing and notify your doctor. A good rule of thumb: when in doubt, sit them out.
  • NO RETURN TO PLAY until cleared by your doctor.

9.  A good coach.

  • The coach should be supportive.
  • The coach should be interested in the athlete’s best welfare on and off the field.
  • The coach should be prepared for the practices and games.

10. Enjoy!

  • Participation in sports should be challenging, but fun. If you aren’t enjoying the entire experience, consider finding a different sport you may get more satisfaction from.