Sports like football and baseball are classic American pastimes enjoyed by children all summer long. Another popular option is soccer, and it's an activity that's experienced sizable growth in recent years. As U.S. Youth Soccer pointed out, enrollment in the organization jumped nine percent in 2014. Kids everywhere seem to be interested in a new crop of athletes, those talented members of Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA. But just as kids need proper padding in football or the right shoes in baseball, safety should always be a priority when your kid is on the soccer field.
Here are four handy tips to safeguard your little soccer star:
"Shin guards are hugely important for all soccer players."
1. Proper clothing is the goal
Soccer may not be as head-on a contact sport as football, but players still need to wear the right gear. Shin guards are perhaps the most vital piece of equipment, as lower leg injuries are quite common. Shin guards should fit the child's leg firmly around the shin and ankle bone, with little wiggle room. Socks are equally important and should be worn anytime during a practice session or game. If your child's playing goalie, consider a long sleeve shirt, given the position's constant dives, and special gloves for added protection.
2. Make fair play a priority
According to the American Academy of Pediatricians, soccer injuries, especially those involving the head, routinely stem from an overly aggressive play style. Players who forget things like sportsmanship and the value of fair play not only injure others but increase their own risk as well. By emphasizing these values – the importance of treating your opponents properly – you're also offering your child lessons that he or she can use in the rest of life.
3. Hit the field yourself
If your child was going to use the neighborhood playground, you'd make time to check for broken chains or dangerous obtrusions. The same should go for any soccer field your little one plays on. You'll want to look out for not only pieces of trash or other foreign objects, but also bumps, ruts and holes. If you want to be really thorough, then examine the rest of the field, particularly the goal posts to see if ther ground pegs or sand bags are firmly tied down. It's better to work with other parents to check the field as effectively as possible.
4. Don't forget the warm-up
Some of the most common soccer injuries involve the legs, including sprained ankles, hamstring injuries, shin fractures and a rupture of the MCL, one of the major ligaments in the knee. That's why it's so important that every child warms up before a game. Simple stretches – the forward hang, low lunge arch or seated back twist – at least 30 minutes prior can make all the difference. These exercises will give your star player a better range of movement and better oxygenated muscles.
No matter how safe you and your little soccer player may be, injuries sometimes happen in intense games. For any injury, you can head from the field to your nearest CareWell Urgent Care Center. With facilities all over the Eastern Seaboard, CareWell's team of doctors can help any player get back into the game ASAP.