Summer Safety Series: How to Keep Your Kids Safe in Sports

As I watched the closing ceremonies of the Pan Am Games, I couldn’t help but reflect on how they have brought our city and whole country together, inspired our youth, and shown us the power of sport.  I had the pleasure of attending many of the events and I congratulate all of our athletes. I know the sacrifices they must have made to be able to achieve such great results.

I saw so many kids in the audience cheering loudly as they watched our Canadian athletes win gold.  My children felt so much pride whenever our flag was raised at an event, listening to our national anthem, and touching a gold medal when one of our Canadian athletes walked into the PanAm Park with it around her neck.

Now my kids, and so many kids all over Ontario, are eager to get out and try all these sports themselves!

Summertime is a great opportunity for them to do that, but as parents, we should be ready for the risks that come with athletics. No, I’m not being paranoid or overly cautious because I’m a personal injury lawyer. Statistics show that 1 in 5 sport-related injuries are concussions and between 5 and 10 percent of athletes in an average sport will experience a concussion in a given season.[1]  Concussions are often minor, but they can have lasting effects if they’re not recognized and treated properly. The time it takes for a concussion to heal can vary widely. If adequate rest and rehabilitation are not allowed, a relatively minor concussion can cause lasting damage to a child’s brain.

As parents, coaches and volunteers it is not possible to prevent every concussion. We therefore must be mindful of the risk of concussions, their warning signs, and what action to take if we are concerned that a child has sustained a concussion.

Some signs of a concussion include:

  • General confusion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sleepiness
  • Seeing double.
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor concentration
  • Strange or inappropriate emotions.

As a personal injury lawyer, I have seen the long-term damage concussions can do and I want to help prevent that. Children who are suspected to have suffered a concussion should immediately stop playing the sport or activity.  They should not be left alone and should be taken to see a doctor as soon as possible.

In the case of unconsciousness, an ambulance should be called immediately.  If the unconscious child is wearing a helmet, leave the helmet on.  Even if the child feels better later that day, it is important to allow them the time to fully heal; young children and teens take longer to heal from concussions than adults.  Slowly increasing the level of physical and mental activity the child performs, in accordance with their medical professional’s advice, is the best route to recovery.

Even after a child has fully recovered and returned to play, it is important to maintain a high level of awareness of the possibility of further injury.  A child is 1-2 times more likely to receive a second concussion with the likelihood of further concussions increasing with each subsequent concussion.[2]

There are all sorts of educational resources on the web that can provide further information on preventive measures to keep our children safe. Here’s a great article by Parachute about how to safely play summer sports if your child has caught the Pan Am fever:

[1] Brain Injury Association of Waterloo-Wellington, “Stats”(2012), online:; Sport Concussion Institute, “Concussion facts” (2012) online:

[2] Sport Concussion Institute, “Concussion facts” (2012) online:

Colleen McHugh


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