Kids’ First Sports Participation: Choosing the Right Equipment

Sports participation is a fun and important part of growing up, but without the right equipment and preparation, kids have a much greater risk for orthopedic injury.


Sports and athletic endeavors contribute to kids’ physical, emotional and social development, and teach them many valuable lessons about teamwork and achieving their goals. Along with these benefits, however, come a few risks. And some sports are riskier than others in terms of potential injury.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 2.6 million children, adolescents and teens are treated in emergency rooms every year for injuries related to athletic activities. By choosing the right equipment for your child’s athletic participation, you can help prevent sports injury and keep your child safe.

Choose the Proper Safety Gear

To decrease the risk of injury, be sure to identify the appropriate gear for your children’s chosen sport. For each sport, follow recommended equipment guidelines designed to protect your child.

Helmets are required for some athletic activities, like football, and strongly recommended for others, like skateboarding, biking and skiing (although some localities may mandate their use).

Select the specific helmet designed for your child’s sport — if you cut corners by trying to repurpose an old helmet or one designed for a different sport, you place your child at risk for concussions and other major injuries.

Eye protection also is required or recommended for some athletic activities, such as hockey, lacrosse and snowboarding.

To avoid a sports injury, your child may also need wrist, knee or elbow guards, or pads for the shins, thighs, shoulders or hips.

Mouthguards may be required for activities that have a greater risk of head injury, such as wrestling, martial arts and boxing. Boys may need to wear a protective cup for participation in contact sports.

And it is vital to have the proper footwear for any sport or athletic endeavor to help prevent trips and falls. Check with your child’s coach, athletic trainer or gym teacher for a full list of recommended sports equipment.

Choose Equipment that Fits

It isn’t enough to have all of the appropriate sports equipment; it all must fit properly to truly protect your little athlete.

Helmets should fit snugly on the head without tilting, and eye protection must sit securely on the face. Depending upon your child’s sport, a custom, dentist-fitted mouthguard can ensure against painful and costly dental restoration.

Wearing or using inappropriate sports equipment, or gear that does not fit properly poses as much risk as no protection at all, according to orthopedic experts.

Ask for Your Child’s Input

Finally, always encourage your children to assist in selecting their sports equipment.

Studies have shown that children are more likely to wear and use helmets and safety gear that they have chosen themselves. Style and design may be important to some children, and everyone wants equipment that’s comfortable. Be sure that your children are pleased with both the look and fit of their sports gear before committing to a purchase.

Not every sports injury is preventable, but having the right gear is effective insurance.

For more advice on choosing proper sports equipment for your children, talk with their coaches and a Steward Health Care: Orthopedics & Sports Medicine physician to help ensure a positive outcome from early sports participation.