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March Madness: Protecting Our Kids From Sports Injuries

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Basketball season is in full swing now that the Super Bowl is passed and March Madness is just around the corner. However, much of the commentary focus on injuries is still in the sports news daily. Concussions are the primary concern, as we now know that concussions have long-term impact well beyond the few days following the injury.
Football players on all levels have historically played through concussions, often having received multiple concussions during the process. The attention football is receiving is also causing parents to reconsider whether or not their children should play football, basketball, and other contact sports. Some parents hope to steer their young jocks’ interests toward sports that do not present a constant opportunity for a devastating head injury. However, serious injuries still occur in every sport.
Youth Sports Injuries
Research data compiled by the University of Rochester indicate that approximately 30 million children and teens are active in some form of structured athletics. Many sports are intramural school games, but most communities also sponsor youth sports leagues for summertime participation as well. The most popular of these is baseball, which is seeing a resurgence among children who do not typically participate in sports at their school.
Injuries to these scholar-athletes are rather extensive, as over 450,000 sprains and strains of limbs were reported last year. In addition, there were nearly 250,000 fractures during the same time period, along with an alarming 163,000 reported concussions overall. This provides significant evidence that serious injuries can occur across all levels of organized sporting activities and safety is a major concern for all of them.
Protective Equipment
Most sports use common sense protective equipment to lessen the possibility of severe injury. The most prominent of this type of gear is the football uniform, complete with helmets, shoulder pads, and thigh pads. Of course, baseball protective gear is highlighted by batting helmets and the full array of catching equipment, including a padded glove.
This year professional baseball will experiment with protective “pitching helmets” that must be customized to fit  each individual pitcher. The mandate for customization may pose a financial hardship for pitchers in youth baseball programs, but it will soon be a common fixture in the game. Hockey, likewise, utilizes a considerable amount of protective equipment, which makes sense in a sport where the players race around on ice with a big crooked stick in their hands! Make sure your children realize the need and importance of protective gear in playing any sport.
Coaching Your Kids
No parent wants to see their child hurt or severely injured from sporting accidents or collisions, but there are compelling reasons why parents and their kids chose to compete. The pure joy of the competition is one. For many families, it’s a real passion. And then in some families, collegiate sports is their only ticket to higher education. Discussing the pros and cons with your children and coaching them through the process of making some tough decision for themselves can heighten their awareness of the range of possibilities–good and bad–that may result from participating in an organized league.
In the event of an injury you may also have to shepherd them through the physical, emotional and legal recovery. You will undoubtedly have to take the reins should the need arise for legal help, and you shouldn’t hesitate to do just that in order to protect your family financially. As one Miami injury lawyer put it, “Whether it’s keeping you informed of the status of your case or fighting to get you every dollar you truly deserve…your lawyer will help you and your family.”
There is an old adage that truly applies in the sports arena: it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt.  Playing smart in any sport means playing safely. But, when someone does get hurt, there is usually significant legal recourse available for the injured party, including insurance policies and potential harassment and negligence among the sports organizations during practice and training. Always consult with a legal professional when your children are injured playing organized sports because there are often multiple respondents and the more egregious cases could be ripe for punitive damage awards.
Writer and arm-chair jock LaGeris Underwood Bell hopes this article will help parents and their young athletes consider the physical and financial cost of sports competition.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23912576@N05/3289897472/

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