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Tips for Preventing Football Injuries

To help your child avoid injury while playing football, follow these safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other sports and health organizations.

(Note: Adults should heed this safety guidance, too.)

  • Before your child starts a training program or plays competitive football, take him or her to the doctor for a physical exam. The doctor can help assess any special injury risks your child may have.

  • Make sure your child wears all the required safety gear every time he or she plays and practices. All tackle football players must wear: a helmet; pads for the shoulders, hips, tailbone, and knees; thigh guards; and a mouth guard with a keeper strap. Talk to your child's coach to find out what kind of cleats are recommended or required in your child's league. If your child wears glasses, talk to your eye doctor about special eyewear for sports.

  • Insist that your child warm up and stretch before playing.

  • Teach your child not to play through pain. If your child gets injured, see your doctor. Follow all the doctor's orders for recovery, and get the doctor's OK before your child returns to play. This is especially important for brain injuries--getting a second brain injury before the first one has healed can be fatal.

  • Make sure first aid is available at all games and practices.

  • Talk to and watch your child's coach. Coaches should enforce all the rules of the game. They should never allow illegal blocking (pulling a player down by the knees or grabbing the face mask), tackling from behind, or "spearing" (using the top of the helmet to tackle). Coaches should also encourage safe play and understand the special injury risks that young players face.

  • Above all, keep football fun. Putting too much focus on winning can make your child push too hard and risk injury.

Whether your child plays football on an organized team or with a few friends in the park, there are still injury risks. Unfortunately, few children who play in backyard football games follow the safety rules observed in league play. As a parent, set rules for informal play, including these:

  • Wear helmets and pads.
  • Play only with children of similar size and age.
  • Play on grass, never in the street or in a parking lot.
  • Stick to touch or flag football--they can be less dangerous than tackle.

You can help reinforce these rules by setting a good example. When you play football--or any other sport--always follow the rules and wear appropriate safety gear.

© 2007 safeusa