Ally Carr is a girl with a passion. Much to my delight, my vivacious 15-year-old daughter is a talented and determined athlete who loves volleyball and softball and gives 110% to each of her teams.
She's been playing both sports this spring, just as her beloved Phillies return to the field. Watching her in practices and games reminds me of just how great it is for kids to participate in team sports.
A few weeks ago, Ally was at practice, working hard, as usual, when her cleat caught in the turf while she was running the bases. As she tumbled to the ground, she immediately felt pain and thought she had hyperextended her knee.
As you would hope, Ally's coach knew all the right things to do. She followed his advice for "RICE" to a T: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Ally was determined to support her teams and kept going to volleyball practice even though she was limited in what she could do. Even with softball, she wanted to keep practicing because without her, the team wouldn't have enough players. Instead of crouching behind the plate in her catcher's position, Ally's coach had her sit on a bucket in an effort to protect her knee.
I went through a mental checklist, wondering if there was anything we could have done to prevent the injury. Did she have a physical evaluation before the season? Check. Does she warm up and stretch before play and does her gear fit properly? Check and check. Does Ally hydrate before, during and after play? Yes, although Ally admits she could hydrate more.
When her knee didn't improve, we met with an orthopedic and sports specialist at Children's National Medical Center. He suspected a torn meniscus and recommended an MRI, and we are waiting to hear the results.
As a mother of two grown children and a teenager, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to keep my kids safe. Today, as the President and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, I spend my time working to help prevent all kinds of injuries among children the world over. Ally got hurt just as we were preparing for Safe Kids Week (April 21-28), when we and our founding sponsor of 25 years, Johnson & Johnson, focus on youth sports safety. The irony isn't lost on me.
Ally's injury added a new dimension to my personal and professional lives. What should Safe Kids say to parents if they've done all the "right things" and still an injury occurs? And in my case, what do you do with a 15-year-old girl with an injured knee who still wants to play?
Like so much in parenting, it is not easy to know what to do, especially as your children grow more independent and start pursuing their passions on their own. How does a parent keep a teenager safe and at the same time teach her how to be responsible as she grows and learns?
Through my work and this experience with Ally, I have come to believe that the team is the key, and I am not talking just about the team on the playing field. Sports safety is a team effort. It takes athletes, coaches, parents and physicians, working together as a team, to prevent injuries (and re-injury) when, for example, a cleat gets caught, or a player collides with another. It takes a team to evaluate injuries, and we each have our part to play.
We all want our children to play, especially on teams, and about 38 million kids participate in organized sports in the U.S. each year. Participation in team sports builds self-esteem and confidence, promotes teamwork and leadership abilities, increases health and fitness, enhances social skills, and encourages healthy competition. As Ally's mother, I want her to do what she loves and reap the benefits that team sports offer girls in particular.
As parents, coaches, physicians and athletes, we are all in this together. It feels good to know that my decisions are part of a team effort to get Ally back on the field once she's healed. And you can bet we'll be on top of our game and taking those extra steps to prevent re-injury.
This experience also made me realize what I don't know, like how well-trained Ally's coaches are in preventing injury. If you are a parent or young athlete, do you know how much training in sports injury prevention your coaches have had? How do you help coach a child to fewer sports injuries?
For information and tips on how you can keep your children safe, visit Safe Kids.
Get Involved: www.safekids.org