Football remains the leading cause of all school sports injuries. This includes minor sprain and strains, to major injuries to the knee and shoulder. Head injuries and concussions are of such great concern that even the major league has implemented strict new protocols. There are many things coaches, parents and athletes can do to improve football safety, a few of which are detailed below.
Maintaining Overall Health
When athletes are dehydrated or undernourished, even if they just skipped lunch, they cannot focus on the game or plays. Since athletes burn more calories during football season, they must also increase hydration and caloric intake. Another common health challenge students have is getting the sleep they require. Often, they stay up late doing homework once they get home from practice or the game. This loss of sleep can leave them foggy during the next game. Last but not least, every athlete should have a preseason physical exam and should consider postseason and as-needed check ups with a sports medicine physician, as well.
Improving Upon Athletic Skill
Many injuries can be minimized by simply improving upon an athlete’s skill set. This includes memorizing the plays, so they are always in the right place at the right time. However, it also extends to position-specific skills training designed to improve technique. There isn’t always enough time for position-specific training during practice, which is why many athletes participate in year-round football skills training at Competitive Edge. This training includes:
- Speed endurance
- Strength development
- Resistance training
- Agility, coordination and stability
- Cardio conditioning
- Injury prevention
Playing by the Rules of the Game
Tripping, clipping, blocking below the knees, grabbing the facemask and helmet-to-helmet contact is all illegal. If intentional illegal contact were eliminated, a large majority of football injuries would disappear too. While there will be the inevitable accidental helmet-to-helmet contact during a tackle, coaches and parents must implement consequences for illegal contact.
Wear and Inspect Your Gear
It doesn’t matter what position they play; all students must be properly geared up before they hit the field. Parents must also inspect gear to ensure it is the right size and fit for their child and that it is in optimal condition. Essential gear includes:
- Shoulder pads
- Thigh pads
- Knee pads
- Hip girdle with pads
- Practice pants
Educate Students on Signs and Symptoms of Injury
Football is a contact sport, so many young athletes simply write off their bumps and bruises as part of the game. This is why it is important for parents to talk to their kids about acute pain, chronic pain, and head injury or concussion. Students should also be educated on the signs of a concussion — both in themselves and in their teammates. Signs that medical attention should be sought include:
- Double vision
- Slow response time — both physically and verbally
- Dazed or stunned appearance
Parents and coaches must take a proactive approach to keep young athletes safe. The tips above will help, but we must remember that keeping our athletes safe takes ongoing commitment.
Competitive Edge aims to develop the “complete athlete” using performance sports training in Woodbridge, VA and surrounding areas. Members are able to enhance their athletic performance and develop a competitive edge to excel in their desired sport.