May 21, 2024 Nurturing Youth Athletes: Best Practices for Injury Prevention and Safety

girl doing a soccer drill with her coach looking on

Jason Krystofiak, MD
Jason Krystofiak, MD

Youth sports are an excellent way for children to stay active, learn new skills, and make friends. However, with any physical activity, there is always a risk of injury. Dr. Jason Krystofiak, who serves as Section Chief of Sports Medicine at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center and Medical Director of Sports Medicine for RWJBarnabas Health, focuses not only on treating injuries but also promoting best practices to prevent common injuries and improve safety in youth sports.

What can parents do to help prevent sports injuries?

Preventing common injuries like sprains and strains is a team effort, with parents, athletes, and healthcare professionals playing crucial roles. Parents play a pivotal role in promoting the well-being of their young athletes. By instilling good daily habits, such as ensuring adequate sleep, hydration, and a balanced diet, parents can optimize their child's performance and significantly reduce the risk of injuries. This collaborative effort is especially important for student-athletes who must balance their sports commitments with their academic responsibilities.

Is it OK for my child to play more than one sport in a season?

Young athletes should stick to one sport per season. Playing multiple sports concurrently does not allow time for rest and recovery, which can help prevent injuries.

Is resistance training appropriate for young athletes?

Resistance training can be appropriate for young athletes, but it must be done correctly. This means proper supervision from trainers, appropriate weights, and technique are paramount. If resistance training is done incorrectly, young athletes can be susceptible to soft tissue or bone injuries.

What can my child do to prevent concussions?

To reduce the risk for concussion, reduce contact in certain sports practices, wear mouthguards, and using proper protective equipment and sports techniques. Certain exercises can increase the muscle mass of the neck to help prevent concussions, as it can help the neck tense in preparation for impact and, therefore, potentially reduce the effects of a concussion.

How do injuries impact an athlete’s mental health?

Injuries can have psychological impacts on young athletes, such as fear of reinjury or loss of confidence. Addressing the psychological aspects of sports injuries requires a multidisciplinary approach, with collaboration between sports medicine professionals and behavioral health experts. By fostering open communication and proactive intervention, the sports community can empower young athletes to navigate adversity with resilience and grace.