BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - With the new school year comes new sports teams. Every year about 3 million sports- related injuries force American children and adolescents to take time off from their game, but children love sports anyway. Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg, internest and sports medicine physician at Summit Medical Group, said fortunately parents can help ensure the safety of young athletes by following some simple guidelines.

“Participating in sports helps kids improve fitness and coordination, develop skills and self esteem, and learn how to be a member of a team,” Rosenberg said.

The Right Sport for the Right Child

Sign Up for E-News

Choose a sport appropriate for your child’s age and ability. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children wait until at least age 8 to participate in contact sports, including basketball and soccer, and age 10 to participate in collision sports, such as football and hockey.

Although sports specialization (playing only one sport all year around) has become more common than in the past, it is healthier for your child to play multiple different sports during the year.  "Playing a single sport, usually on more than one team at a time," advises Rosenberg, "significantly increases risk for overuse injuries and stress fractures which may limit their long term playing careers. In addition, since different sports have different physical demands, your child will develop a wider range of muscle development, neurological control and coordination.

Coaching Is Key

Make sure your child’s sport is supervised by a trained teacher or coach. A good coach:

• Emphasizes participation, fun, and skill development over winning (makes children less likely to ignore signs of pain and risk injury because the pressure to win is too high)

• Matches players of equal size and strength

• Helps young athletes progress as they gain skills

• Teaches players how to minimize the risk for injury

• Limits practice times to an appropriate length

• Encourages players to drink plenty of water during practices and games, especially in hot weather

• Requires the use of safety equipment such as helmets, mouth guards, face guards, padding, shin guards, and protective cups

• Maintains safe equipment and playing areas

• Enforces safety rules

What Parents Should—and Shouldn’t—Do

• Don’t put pressure on your child to win at all costs. Like the coach, you should focus on fun—and safety.

• Take your child’s physical complaints seriously; don’t require your child to “play through the pain.”

• Watch for warning signs of pain in your child, including a limp or other favoring of a part of the body, a loss of enthusiasm for the sport, or a decline in performance.

Rosenberg cautions: If your child does get injured, remember that “no pain, no gain” is poor advice. Unhealed childhood sports injuries can cause lifelong damage, so even a minor injury may warrant a call to the doctor.

Rosenberg will give a lecture entitled "Tackling Sports Concussions Head On" on Wednesday Sept. 5, at 7 p.m. at Summit Medical Group. He’ll review the diagnosis and treatments for concussions, review dangers of multiple concussions and discuss the use of computerized neuropsychological testing prior to “return to play.”

For registration and more information, visit www.summitmedicalgroup.com.