How parents can manage their children’s sports anxiety

Key Takeaways

  • One-third of childhood injuries occur during a sporting event.
  • Sports activities have many physical, mental and emotional benefits for children.
  • Parental concerns about children’s sports are normal; There are several factors to consider in determining which activity is right for your family.

More than 3.5 million children age 14 and younger are injured playing organized sports each year. In fact, one third of all childhood injuries result from a sports-related activity. These numbers are enough to worry and alarm parents – and with more than 60 million children playing sports, Statistics represent a small but important number.

Unfortunately, repeated teasing has become the norm and rarely deters children from ongoing participation in sports. But when something happens on a national scale, like the tragic collapse and cardiac arrest of NFL safety Damar Hamlin, parents are put in a position to reevaluate the importance of their child’s long-term involvement in such activities.

“Traumatic events create reactions in people. Sometimes those reactions don’t always serve us in the best way. I think the best thing the parents of athletes can do is talk about it after this event. It’s scary. Injuries are scary,” Joseph Galasso, PsyD. , says sports psychologist, Baker Street Behavioral Health.

Many parents struggle with letting their kids play team sports and worrying about keeping them safe. When deciding whether to let your child play, it’s important to consider all the pros and cons of team play while maintaining an awareness of whether your concerns are based on anxiety or fact.

Consider the pros and cons of team sports

There is no arguing with the claim that children benefit physically, mentally and emotionally from playing team sports. It boosts their self-esteem and confidence, improves cognitive ability, reduces stress, benefits cardiovascular fitness, bone density and can even reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

But any time there’s a combination of physical exertion, airborne foreign objects, and other kids trying to beat your kid at a game… there’s a risk.

“Common injuries to athletes can involve things like accidents, falls, being hit by objects, collisions, or even overheating or frostbite,” explains Michael Manswell, a licensed mental health counselor at ThriveWorks, who has a degree in sports and exercise psychology. . “Basketball and football typically have the highest number of injuries among young athletes due to upper/lower body injuries, leg injuries and brain injuries,” he added.

Tracy Anderson, Ph.D

As it is the responsibility of each parent to make these decisions for their family, it is not a question of what is ‘reasonable’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’… what is most important is that the family unit weighs all the options with their risks and benefits and makes a decision. Assume that they can all exist

– Tracy Anderson, Ph.D

Those injuries, and the unknown causes that can cause them, are what scare most parents. While some choose to focus on the positives, this concern limits others in what sports they allow their children to play.

“It is the responsibility of each parent to make these decisions for their family, it is not a question of what is ‘reasonable,’ ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ as these are simply labels attached to their own judgment. What’s most important is that the family unit weighs all options with their risks and benefits and makes a decision they can all live with,” notes Tracy Andersen, PhD, LMHC, Director of Operations for Clinical Services and Behavioral Health, RiseLife/Aid to Developmentally. disabled

Most parents understand that their child may be injured. But they also understand the benefits of participating in a sport where they learn the value of hard work and cooperation. The real challenge arises when a parent tries to balance their anxieties and fears with their child’s desire to play.

When caution turns into overprotection

Parents should protect their children, no question. No one questions a child looking both ways while crossing the street or refusing to let a toddler cook hot food on the stove. But when it comes to sports, most parents struggle with whether their fears about safety are justified.

“Based on the statistics and the exposure you can get to injury as a result of being involved in sports, parents’ concerns are well-placed. However, an element of overprotection may play a role, as parental fear or anxiety associated with ‘what if’ thoughts may prevent a child from playing sports,” says Catherine Del Toro, LMHC, Provider Partner of

Catherine Del Toro, LMHC

Based on the statistics and the likelihood that you’ll get injured as a result of being involved in sports, parents’ concerns are well-placed.

– Catherine Del Toro, LMHC

Constantly anticipating a “worst-case” scenario also harms the emotional and mental health of parents.

“Anxiety begins to affect us internally and then manifests itself externally. Our thoughts related to the worry of our child getting hurt stop us from paying attention or concentration and cause catastrophizing, increased blood pressure and rapid heart rate, outbursts of anger and/or sadness. can disrupt effectiveness,” notes del Toro.

Children also feel its effects. Research shows that when parents are overprotective, it prevents children from learning how to deal with depression and stress. In addition, children may be more fearful of risk, struggle with more anxiety, and may even be more likely to deal with mental disorders.

Consider a few things

Before registering your child for the fall soccer season, take the time to identify the root of your concerns.

A careful review of all the facts can help a concerned parent make an informed decision. Experts say to consider:

  • Is it a game that your child wants to play? Will they enjoy it?
  • What are their competing advantages?
  • What are the risks associated with playing this game?
  • What precautions can you take to help your child play successfully?

Take your child’s overall health into account

“One major factor that parents must consider is pre-existing or at-risk medical conditions in the child before signing them up for sports, especially high-contact activities. These may include heart problems, asthma, skin conditions or rare blood problems,” advises Manswell.

Ultimately, life is risky. As you weigh the potential for injury with the potential rewards of the sport, you need to make the right decision for you and your family.

“It is the job of parents and adults to protect our children from what we believe are real dangers. We need to gather information and use that information to make the best possible decisions. If we make a decision based on fear or anxiety, it may not be the best decision for our child,” says Dr. Galasso.

“It’s a difficult balance, and we need to be open to conversations with our spouses, our peers, coaches, doctors, and other community members to make sure we’re making the right decisions,” she concludes.

What does this mean for you?

Parents want to protect their children. It is natural to fear that they will get hurt on the playground. Take time to address your concerns before deciding to let your child play. Talking to coaches, former players and even other parents can help you make an informed decision about what’s best for you and your family.

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