Organized sports among safest outdoor activities for kids

Participating in organized sports is one of the safest outdoor activities for children, said physicians at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. One reason is that kids in organized leagues are more likely to wear protective gear than those participating in unsupervised, free-style play, said Dr. Karl Rathjen, assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery. Another is that being supervised by team coaches leaves little opportunity for dangerous horseplay or improper techniques. ‘Children are much more likely to be injured at playgrounds or swimming pools,’ he said. Kids as young as 3 years old can enroll in many municipal leagues. And because most children don’t have a lot of power in their swing or with their kicking, softballs or soccer balls gone awry are less likely to inflict permanent damage on other players. Organized sports also help children develop mentally and psychologically, said Dr. Thomas Van Hoose, clinical associate professor of psychiatry. Kids learn key social skills, such as teamwork, separating from their parents and taking direction from other adults. And it’s just plain healthy, Van Hoose added. ‘It keeps them off the couch and out of the refrigerator,’ he said. ‘It cuts into their TV time, and it gives them something physical to work on. And that’s good for their bodies and their minds.’ Parents should look for teams that are inclusive, Van Hoose said. That way, children learn to diversify their skills and learn new techniques in a healthy and less-competitive environment, which is not always found when children have to try-out for teams. ‘These kinds of beginning activities are good for lots of reasons, including developing physical and athletic abilities in an atmosphere that’s fairly positive,’ Van Hoose said. As with any activity, parents should still make sure that participation doesn’t eliminate free time from kids’ schedules. ‘It’s important that parents realize that activities need to be child-driven and remember that summer is a time for kids to rest their bodies and their minds,’ Rathjen said. Van Hoose agreed. ‘If they want to take time to lie on their beds, stare at the ceiling and daydream, then they need time to do that, too.’

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