Football is a physical contact sport with the potential for serious injury, even death. According to the Yale Medical Group, five deaths were directly attributed to football in 2010. In two of the cases, the fatalities involved high school students. Your role as your child's sports safety advocate is essential in ensuring that he not only enjoys the game, but does so safely.
Know Your Child's Overall Health
Be present at your would-be athlete's preseason physical. Ask questions of his doctor who administers the test, which should include an electrocardiogram and a noninvasive cardiovascular screening examination. As a parent, you need to know whether your teenager has a heart defect that would prevent him from playing football safely. Football is a fast-paced sport that can place a lot of stress on the heart.
Ask questions of the officials in charge of the team regarding health and safety. Indeed, if you don't receive answers that show that the ones in charge of the team are ready for health emergencies, including injuries, do not let him play on the team. For instance, ensure that the team has adequate injury insurance. It should also have trained first-responders there at each game or practice ready in case your child sustains an injury. In addition, ask about the team's post-injury policy. Only medical professionals should clear your child to resume participation on the football field -- not a coach. Also, ensure that the team provides water or electrolyte juices for players so they stay hydrated throughout practice. Ask about their practice cancellation policy in the event of extreme heat.
Provide Correct Safety Gear
Ensure that your child has a helmet with a hard, plastic outer shell. As the KidsHealth website recommends, if you're confused about what football helmet to buy for him, ask someone knowledgeable at a sporting goods store. Let him know you are only interested in buying a helmet that meets the standards that the National Operating Committee for Standards for Athletic Equipment has established. This helmet should also have a mask made of coated carbon steel, and a mouth guard that is firmly attached to the face mask. Your child should also have thick pads for shoulders, hips, thighs, knees and tailbone, and a protective cup that fits over the groin to avoid testicular injury.
Ensure Your Child Knows Football Safety Rules
Before you let your child play football, ensure that he knows the safety rules. For instance, advise him that certain maneuvers are illegal, such as tripping, clipping, face mask grabbing, blocking beneath the knees and spearing, which means tackling by leading with the top of the helmet. This can cause a traumatic brain injury. Also ensure that he knows the importance of obeying the whistle. For as KidsHealth points out, a player can suffer an injury if he keeps moving after everyone else on the field stops.
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