Playing football can be a great way for children and teens to take part in a team sport and stay physically active. However, it is important for players to understand that injuries can, and do, occur. Taking a few safety precautions such as wearing properly fitted safety equipment every time you practice or play can help prevent serious injuries. Football safety equipment should include a helmet with a NOCSAE seal, mouth guards, shoulder pads, football pants with pads, and football shoes with cleats.
Another important concern for football players is heat-related illness. Many teams start practicing during the hot days of August. Make sure to gradually expose players to playing in the heat by having initial practices without pads or helmets and slowly adding one piece of new equipment to practice sessions until players bodies can adjust. Also consider scheduling practice session or game times to occur during the cooler parts of the day. Require players to drink fluids before, during and after all practice sessions and games and let them take breaks to rest in cool, shaded spots.
Learn to recognize the signs of heat illnesses and concussions and know what to do if you see a player experiencing symptoms of either. Before the season starts, coaches should have an emergency action plan in place for what to do if a player is injured in practice or a game if athletic trainers will not be present. When an athlete shows signs of a concussion, make sure that he is treated by a healthcare professional and that he is rested and symptom-free before returning to play.
Also remember that football injuries can occur even when you are playing in the backyard at home. When playing for fun, set ground rules such as no tackling, two-hand touch or flag only, to help ensure that casual games don't take a serious turn.
Press Release: New National Study Finds Increase in Football-Related Injuries among Youth - August 12, 2011
Press Release: Football Injuries in U.S. High School Athletes More Severe During Kickoff, Punting - August 13, 2009
PubMed Abstract: Effects of Field Location, Time in Competition, and Phase of Play on Injury Severity in High School Football - January-March 2009
PubMed Abstract: Epidemiology of High School and Collegiate Football Injuries in the United States, 2005-2006 - August 2007
Press Release: New Study Sheds Light on Football-Related Injuries at High School, Collegiate Levels - July 26, 2007
Sports & Injury Safety