Don’t Flip Because They Do

You are prepared for life as a sports mom or dad.

Football, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse — you watch it, you know the equipment and the common injuries, and you maybe even played it yourself back in the day.

But then your kid does the unexpected — and picks a far more dangerous sport than any of those. Maybe he or she picks an extreme motor sport (think riders doing cartwheels on flying motorcycles); mountain biking; rock and ice climbing; or even extreme scooter and skateboarding, to name a few.

It has to be safer to play “normal” sports, right?

Actually, the sports with the most injuries may surprise you. These include football, biking, basketball, baseball and softball, soccer, swimming, roller skating and ice skating, skateboarding, hockey, and volleyball.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half of all kids’ sports injuries are preventable, yet they are on the rise. A University of Colorado School of Public Health study showed that concussions are increasing in typical sports, including lacrosse, gymnastics, ice hockey and wrestling, with over 300,000 reported annually.

Kids' Most Common Sports Injuries
  • Sprains and strains
  • Growth plate injuries
  • Repetitive motion injuries
  • Heat-related illnesses

But from 2000 to 2011, there were four million injuries from extreme sports — only a slight increase over traditional sports.

OK, great. But what if you’re still panicking?

1.) First, research the sport. Read everything you can get your hands on about it, what equipment is used, the costs involved and the risks. Assume broken bones and stitches are a given, as they usually are in most sports.

“The sports that provide the greatest danger are those where there is a high likelihood that bodies will collide at a high rate of speed and with great frequency,” said Robert Cantu, MD., clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University Medical School and the author of “Concussion and Our Kids: America’s Leading Expert on How to Protect Young Athletes and Keep Sports Safe.” If that’s the case, maybe your kid’s chosen sport isn’t quite as dangerous as you thought. But showing him or her you’ve done your homework may get your child to listen to your concerns.

2.) Watch the sport with him. Whether it's on ESPN or in person, take the time to observe professionals doing what it is he wants to do. (It's okay to breathe into a paper bag while doing so. Just don't let him see you.) Ask him what training is involved, as well as the hours of practice. How much does he really know about the sport, and is he willing to sacrifice other parts of his life (such as time with friends) to be a success? Then have him research his favorite athletes to know their back story, including how many injuries they've sustained.

3.) Ask why it's important to him. Is he already doing similar stunts and feels ready to go to the next level? Are his friends into this? What does it do for him to participate in this sport? More than likely, it's not just the adrenaline rush but a chance to prove something to himself.

"The mentality is that people who are drawn to extreme sports are risk takers," said Jenn Berman, PhD, a psychologist and member of the 1984 exhibition Olympic gymnastics team. "It’s that they love to push themselves to the limit — physically, emotionally, and in every way possible."

Doesn't every parent want their child to challenge themselves in positive ways?

And these aren't the only benefits.

In 2009, a study of participants in B.A.S.E. jumping (leaping in a parachute or wingsuit from a building, antenna, span or Earth), big wave surfing, extreme skiing, waterfall kayaking, extreme mountaineering, and solo roe-free climbing showed that these sports fostered humility and courage. And that facing fear and death (breathe, Mama or Daddy, breathe!) with these traits allowed personal transformations that carried over in positive ways to other areas of life.

However, what is never OK is putting other people in harm's way in order to get yourself bailed out because of your dangerous or thrill-seeking moves.

Ellen Sandseter, a Norwegian psychologist, has shown in studies that parents who encourage sports like kayaking, rock climbing, or biking are more likely to raise kids who stay out of trouble and mature faster than their peers.

And don't forget: If this is your children's dream, they need to feel loved and encouraged as they work for it, especially if they're going to go for it with your blessing or not.

Jeb Golinkin from the University of Texas School of Law points out that kids in America now grow up in a country paralyzed by complacency and fear. That needs to change.

"He may break his leg or suffer a concussion," Golinkin pointed out, "but he will be far better off for it over the course of his life than if he stays inside and plays video games."

Last Modified: April 5, 2016, 5:52 am

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