Kids are getting more seriously involved in sports at a younger age. Injuries become more common when certain steps aren’t taken and injuries at a young age can cause lifelong damage. Whether your athlete is still in the little leagues or playing high school sports, here are 7 great tips to help protect your kids from sports injuries.

1. Don’t skip the pre-season physical

Most sports teams require a paper with a physical to be turned in at the beginning of each season. This helps staff to know if the player is physically able to play without risking serious injury. If your child is playing sports, take this physical seriously. Don’t try to skip it or use an old physical appointment. Any past injuries are helpful for trainers on the field to know about and watch for and helping coaches know a player’s limits.

2. Warm-up

The most useful technique for preventing injury is stretching to warm up. While young athletes are more flexible, they still need to stretch and warm up to get their muscles ready for movement. Use both static (stretch and hold movements) and dynamic (jumping jacks, straight kicks, and other moving stretches) movements.

3. Get plenty of rest

The best way to help your body repair and prevent injuries caused by exhaustion is to rest. The most common injuries in young athletes are considered overuse injuries, where they don’t get enough rest between practices, games, and events. Getting enough sleep each night and planning off-seasons are just as important to resting your athlete.

4. Teach proper nutrition and hydration

There are two important parts of nutrition in athletes; eating right and staying hydrated. Help your athlete eat nutritious meals that aid in recovery and supplying proper energy for sports. Make sure they eat at least three good meals a day. Especially in sports where athletes must weigh a certain number, like wrestling, boxing, etc., it is important they are establishing proper eating habits.

Hydration is a vital component to staying healthy. Especially during hot weather days, make sure your athlete is drinking before, during, and after playing. This can help avoid heat-related illness and fatigue, which increases chances of injury.

5. Cross-train

While some students know exactly the one sport they want to focus on from a young age, it is best for athletes to participate in a variety of sports. Encourage different sports to avoid stressing the same muscles and joints. Changing up the routine is better for overall athleticism, even increasing their abilities.

6. Use proper equipment and techniques

Every sport has their own safety equipment and a right way of doing things. Whether it is helmets, pads, mouthguards, certain shoes, etc., wearing the proper equipment correctly is important to preventing injury.

Once you have the right equipment on, it’s important to teach and practice proper techniques. There is a right way to tackle in football, a correct form for pitching a baseball, and best running form in racing. Injuries happen most when the proper techniques aren’t followed, even one time.

7. Don’t push through the pain

As a parent, it is important you talk to your athlete about not ignoring pain. Rather than being tough and pushing through it, teach your athlete to pay attention and stop if there is pain. Injuries will progress if ignored and can cause other injuries by throwing different, running with a limp, or other kinds of compensation that prevent proper forms.

Not treating injuries can jeopardize your child’s health and ability to play in the future. When you notice a problem, take your child out of play and watch the problem. If it continues, or you notice swelling around a joint, consistent pain in an area especially during or after playing, joint instability, or painful pops, see a doctor to assess the seriousness of the problem before letting them play again.