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Sports and play safety

Sports and play safety

Kids love to have fun and play. It’s one of the great things about being a kid!  At CHoR, we want to help parents and guardians learn how to keep your kids safe from preventable injuries so they can continue to participate in the sports and activities they love.

How to prevent injuries during these sports or play activities:

Sports safety

Avoid having your kids stuck on the sidelines due to injury and help them continue to play the games they love. With all the social, emotional and physical benefits sports offer, parents and coaches can follow these tips to help reduce preventable injuries:

  • If you’re planning to enroll your child in an organized sport, be sure to have a pre-participation physical exam (PPE) performed by a qualified doctor, nurse or clinician. Be sure to meet with coaches if your child has any medical conditions that require special attention, such as asthma.
  • Encourage hydration by bringing a bottle of water to practices or games. Drink plenty of water before, during and after. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 5 ounces for an 88-pound child and 9 ounces for a 132-pound adolescent every 20 minutes of sports play. In more relatable terms for kids: In general, those in the 90-pound range should take 10 gulps of water every 20 minutes of play and older kids and teens (approximately 130-pound weight range) should drink about 20 gulps for the same time frame.
  • By stretching before practices and games, the muscle tension becomes relaxed and helps prevent injuries such as sprains or tears. Typically, 10 minutes of light activity such as jogging, coupled with stretching all major muscle groups is helpful.
  • If you are a coach, be sure to get certified in CPR, be aware of the signs and symptoms of dehydration, know the signs of a concussion and rest players who are injured during practices and games.
  • Prevent overuse injuries by taking time off from one sport. Use this opportunity to get stronger and develop skills learned.
  • Wear appropriate sports gear that is properly fitted. This might include helmets, shin guards, mouth guards and more.

On the playground

On the playground, actively supervising your children is one of the most important things you can do. Here are other top safety tips to prevent falls and injuries on the playground:

  • Visit a playground with shock-absorbing surfaces such as rubber, synthetic turf, sand, pea gravel or mulch. This way, if your child does fall, the landing will be more cushioned than if they were to fall on asphalt, concrete, grass or dirt.
  • Be sure to remove any clothing or accessories that pose a strangulation hazard. This includes necklaces, purses, scarves, clothes with drawstrings and even helmets.
  • Teach your children that rough play, such as pushing or shoving, is dangerous.
  • Choose the right play area based on age. For example, for babies who are learning to walk a play area should be smooth and easy to walk on.
  • Check for any signs of danger, such as rusty or damaged equipment, or any tripping hazards on the ground.
  • Inspect the guardrails on equipment, making sure they’re sturdy and the proper height for your child.


Biking can make for excellent exercise and family time, but make sure to help kids brush up on some safety measures before setting off on adventures.

  • Wear a properly fitted helmet. Helmets should meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards. Also the Safe Kids helmet fit test uses the eyes, ears and mouth to confirm the correct position and a snug, comfortable fit. Watch registered nurse and Safe Kids Virginia program coordinator Corri Miller-Hobbs explain here.
  • Make sure each bicycle is tuned up and in good working order. Check the brakes, tire pressure, gear shifts and reflectors.
  • Make sure the bike is the correct size for your child. While it is tempting to buy a bike they can grow into, if your child’s feet aren’t able to touch the ground when sitting on the bicycle seat, it can be dangerous.
  • Teach kids the rules of the road such as making eye contact with drivers to make sure they are stopping before crossing and riding on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic.  Learn more driveway and pedestrian safety tips here.
  • Make sure there’s nothing that could get caught in the bike chain or wheels – this includes loose clothing, shoelaces or event backpack straps.
  • Wear bright colors and reflective clothing.
  • Sneakers are the safest choice for footwear – never ride in flip flops or barefoot!
  • Don’t wear headphones while riding.
  • It can’t be said enough – ALWAYS wear a helmet.


Drowning is the leading cause of death among preventable injuries for kids ages 1-4. Whether you are in a pool or open water (lakes, rivers, oceans), these tips can help prevent drowning so you and your children can have fun in the sun.

  • Make sure an adult who’s a good swimmer watches kids WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS at all times. Keep young kids within arm’s reach and make sure older kids swim with a partner every time.
  • Teach children how to swim by enrolling them in swim lessons when they are ready
  • Make sure kids learn these five water survival skills and that they are able to: step or jump into water over their heads and return to the surface, float or tread water for one minute, turn around in a full circle and find an exit, swim 25 yards and exit the water. If in a pool, make sure they are able to exit without using the ladder.
  • Be aware of currents, the undertow and weather changes to watch for. Make sure your kids are aware of these too and know what to do and how to respond. Safe Kids draws attention to some common misconceptions about water safety.
  • In 2018, 79 percent of those who drowned in boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket. A properly-fitting life jacket is “tops” in safe-boating tips and for water sports too. Life jackets save lives, and federal law requires that when a vessel is underway all children under age 13 wear a life jacket.
  • ALWAYS have children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Make sure it fits snugly. Have the child make a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits their chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.
  • Swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device like a life jacket. Be sure your kids and all who care for them are aware of this.
  • According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety, babies should not travel on a boat until they’re the appropriate weight to wear an approved personal flotation device. Read more boating safety recommendations.
  • As a parent or guardian, learning CPR and basic water rescue skills may help you save a child’s life.

Skateboarding and skating

While a lot of the injury prevention tips for skates and skateboarding are like biking, there are other top tips to keep kids rolling smart and safe.

  • Wear protective gear. While a helmet is important, so are wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads. Mouth guards can also help protect against broken teeth. Please watch this helmet fit test to ensure the helmet is properly fitted for your child.
  • Be sure to only ride on smooth, dry surfaces that are in a well-lit area away from traffic.
  • Check the skates and boards for problems such as cracked, loose or broken parts. If you notice any issues, the item shouldn’t be used until it’s repaired.
  • Kids can minimize the impact of a fall by crouching down as they lose balance to reduce the distance to the surface.
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under 5 should never ride a skateboard. This might seem overly protective, but a child’s balance and judgment have not fully developed yet, which means a high risk for a serious injury.

CHoR serves the Richmond area with 24/7 pediatric emergency room care. We also are available for virtual urgent care visits from 4 p.m. to midnight for minor injuries sustained at home.

Downloadable sports and play safety resources

Here are additional links to external resources from Safe Kids Worldwide: