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Sport and Recreation Safety

Children

​Staying active helps children stay healthy, live well, and build strong bones and muscles. Outdoor play and participation in sports are important to your child’s healthy growth and development. Playing outdoors lets your child jump, run, climb, swing, balance, and roll. It also lets them be creative, practice skills, challenge themselves, and explore.

While these activities are good for your child’s overall health, they also have a risk of injury. Follow these tips to lower your child’s chance of getting hurt while they play sports or enjoy other outdoor activities:

  • Check the environment to reduce or remove hazards.
  • Wear protective gear.
  • Develop skills.

Check the environment to reduce or remove hazards

To improve safety, check the places where your children play. Look for hazards. A hazard is something dangerous that may not be obvious to your child but that can cause serious injury. Examples of hazards include thin ice on a frozen lake, hard surfaces under play equipment, broken railings, or an uneven surface with holes on a soccer field.

A risk is different. A risk is a situation where your child can see the chance of an injury happening, think about the challenge, and decide what to do.

Your challenge is to reduce or remove the hazards and provide appropriate supervision while letting your child have the chance to explore, stay active, and have fun.

Wear protective gear

Wearing protective gear like the right helmet, a mouth guard, wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads can lower your child’s risk of an injury. No matter what the activity, make sure your child uses the right gear and equipment. The gear should fit well. Make sure your child wears it properly every time. As an adult, wear protective gear to lower your chance of injury and to be a role model for your child. Learn about fitting helmets for different activities.

Develop skills

Practice and training help your child learn how to do an activity and get better at it. They also help lower the chance that your child will get hurt. If your child doesn’t know how to do an activity, start slowly to develop their skills. Key skills include balance, strength, and agility (being able to move quickly and easily). Think about having your child take lessons to learn how to skate, ski, bike, or play sports. Get lessons from someone who knows how to teach the skills, like a trained coach or professional.

When your child plays an organized sport, their coaches should have training in how to prevent, see, and respond to injuries, including concussions. Coaches should also be supportive, caring, and positive role models. Find out about the coach’s background before your child joins an organized sports team.

Special considerations

Playgrounds and play spaces

Playgrounds can have hazards that can cause injury. Following some basic safety measures can help your child have fun and play safely.

  • All playgrounds and play spaces, whether in your community or your backyard, need a soft surface. This will cushion falls and prevent injuries.
  • A loose-fill surface like sand, gravel, rubber, or wood chips can be used under swings, climbers, and slides. Fill should be at least 15 to 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) deep. Higher equipment needs deeper fill.
  • Always watch your child. How much you need to watch them depends on your child’s age and the activity they’re doing.
  • Use the playground checklist to check for hazards.

Trampolines

Jumping on a trampoline can lead to serious injuries including broken bones, dislocations (when a bone moves out of its normal position), and injuries to the spine. Safety nets on trampolines can prevent falls but they do not prevent injuries related to jumping.

Alberta Health Services and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend that children and youth not use trampolines at home, including cottages and summer homes.

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Current as of: December 6, 2021

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program, Alberta Health Services