Football game in action

Stay in the Game: Prevent Sports Injuries

The whistles are beginning to blow, the plays are beginning to set and the athletes are beginning to practice — all signs that fall sports are upon us. Taking part in sports and recreational activities is important to maintain an active lifestyle for children and teens, but injuries can occur.

Know how to prevent injuries during practice and competition by following these eight simple, but effective, tips:

Listen to your body. Pay attention to warning signs and keep track of symptoms such as unusual fatigue, loss of throwing control or pain that develops after practice or competition. These could be signs of existing or impending injury. Do not play through pain or “tough it out” as this may lead to serious injury.

Stay hydrated. To avoid heat illnesses, cramps or injuries during play, drink plenty of fluids before, during and after practices and games. Taking breaks during practice and games can also reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.

Gear up. Use proper protective gear, such as helmets, wrist guards and knee and elbow pads — in addition to any other sports gear appropriate to the activity or player position.

Use the right stuff. Be sure that protective equipment is in good condition, fits appropriately and is worn correctly all the time. For example, avoid missing or broken buckles or compressed or worn padding. Poorly fitting equipment may be uncomfortable and may not offer the best protection. 

Practice makes perfect. Learn and practice relevant skill sets. For example, an appropriate tackling technique is important in preventing injuries in football. Correct biomechanics — or movement and alignment — also play a role in preventing injuries during football, volleyball and many other activities.

Develop a routine. Stretch and warmup before every practice, using a routine that mirrors the sport being played. A strength and conditioning routine using light weights and high-intensity interval training can also improve coordination and power.

Avoid overuse. If possible, mix up your routine with cross-training, which exercises different parts of the body to give the most-used areas some much-needed rest. Make sure to take “recovery days” to give muscles an opportunity to repair between practice.

Have fun and reduce the emotional stress. The pressure to win can cause significant emotional stress for a child. Young athletes should be judged on effort, sportsmanship and hard work. They should be rewarded for trying hard and for improving their skills rather than punished or criticized for losing a game or competition. The main goal should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills. If you or your athlete are injured during a sports activity, UTMB Health has a team of sports medicine specialists that can comprehensively evaluate and treat the injury, as well as provide a rehabilitation plan to help you get back to doing what you love.

Let our experts get you back in the game. Learn more at

Tips sourced from UTMB Health Orthopedics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.