Finding the best activities for your kids to prevent physical problems down the road
Finding a sport for your child can seem like a daunting task. You want to encourage their interests and make sure they like whatever they choose, but you also must ensure that they stay safe and don’t set themselves up for problems when they grow up. With new evidence emerging that certain physical activities can cause damage later in life, it pays to do your research and determine exactly what can happen during which activities. There is plenty of material about the most dangerous sports for kids. But what about the safest?
We thought that we’d help you out with that.
Below you will find a list of sporting activities that have been scientifically proven to be safer than the alternatives. We will lay out all the data for you so that you can make informed decisions.
The safest sports, the fewest injuries
Statistically, the safest sports are the ones with the lowest rates of injury. The Colorado School of Public Health ran a study in which they tracked more than 150 schools across the country.
Some activities have hidden dangers even though outwardly they might not seem physically strenuous (for instance, ballet dancers suffer from muscle strains and twisted ankles, and if they decide to pursue dancing on pointe, their poor toes will bear the weight of their entire body).
The following sports have been proven to be among the safest physical activities:
- Swimming: This is one of the most popular high school sports for both boys and girls, and it is the second-fastest growing sport in the country. On average, boys have a risk rate of 0.17 injuries per 1,000 times they swam, and girls have a rate of 0.38 injuries per 1,000 times they swam. For boys, this equals one injury out of approximately 6,000 practices and meets; for girls, this is one injury per 3,000 times swimming.
Dangers include swimmer’s shoulder (muscle overuse during certain strokes), hitting the wall when swimming laps, and – the obvious – drowning. This is why your children should never swim alone. Make sure a lifeguard is always on duty before getting into the water. However, this low-impact activity will be with your child throughout his or her lifetime. It builds strength, muscle tone and flexibility.
- Tennis: If you want a sport that will last you into retirement, a racket sport is a great one to choose. This also includes racquetball or squash, though it can be difficult to learn those games if you have already learned tennis (the swinging techniques are very different). These games will allow your kid to learn speed, agility, mental toughness, all about how angles work, and the ability to work solo or as part of a team.
Dangers include, but are not limited to, tennis elbow, a condition that can damage the tendons in forearm muscles when the racket is used incorrectly or the muscles are overused. Kids also must be able to last for three or five sets, depending on whether they are a girl or a boy, and that means building endurance. It can take a few hours to get through three sets. The sport is much harder than it looks.
- Golf: This sport isn’t just for businessmen or retired fogies. More and more young kids are getting into golf because it gets them outside onto beautiful, grassy courses where they can talk with their friends for hours while hitting a ball. Plus, you get to drive an awesome golf cart!
Dangers include, but are not limited to, shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries from improper swinging techniques, crashing your golf cart, and dehydration from being out in the sun all day. Make sure to drink lots of water when you are out on the golf course.
- Volleyball: This sport is great for building team dynamics among children and learning to work in groups. This is the second safest sport for boys, clocking in at 0.53 injuries per 1,000; for girls, it is the fourth safest, at 1.07 injuries per 1,000. That makes girls twice as likely to injure themselves as boys. However, it is far more popular among girls and they are likelier to play the sport.
Dangers include, but are not limited to, muscle strains, falling, shoving and getting hit by the ball, which is surprisingly painful – it’s a sturdy ball. Getting hit in the face with that thing smarts.
- Track and Field: This one was a surprising addition to the list, considering how physically strenuous track and field is. It’s an Olympic sport, for goodness’ sake. (Well, so are the others, to be fair.) This sport involves running, jumping over hurdles, heaving javelins, and throwing shotputs, but males experienced 0.74 injuries per 1,000, and females experienced 0.93 injuries per 1,000.
Dangers include, but are not limited to, muscle strains, sprains, fractures, hitting the obstacles, landing incorrectly and dehydration.
These are the safest sports, though that is not to say other sports have not made great strides in safety protocols. Baseball, for instance, has 0.87 injuries per 1,000 for boys, and has changed its standards for padding, helmets and pitching limits so that players are more protected. However, you can still get hit by the ball, strain yourself at bat, overuse your arm when throwing the ball, and more.
When determining spots to pursue with your child, you should research the sport in detail and then sit down with your child to discuss the pros and cons. Because the kid needs to be happy doing the activity – but safe, too.