Parents, Fearing Injury, May Keep Kids from Playing Sports: National Survey Suggests Many May Not Know Steps to Keep Kids Safely in the Game

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

NEW ORLEANS – Many parents are so worried about their kids getting hurt and are possibly unaware of important injury prevention steps that they have considered removing them from sport participation. This is according to a nationwide survey of parents commissioned by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and released in conjunction with the NATA 69th Clinical Symposia & AT Expo.


Parents want their kids to reap the health benefits and life skills from playing sports – nearly 60 percent of the 1,004 parents of children ages 17 and under surveyed said their child has participated in sports. The survey asked parents their thoughts about the benefits and importance of sports as well as the risks. Nine in 10 said sports participation was important to their child’s overall wellness. In addition to the improved physical fitness and health, 60 percent of parents felt that better life skills, specifically confidence, leadership and teamwork, was the most important benefit of their child’s participation in sports.


And while more than four out five parents (85 percent) believe the benefits of sports participation outweigh the potential risks, concerns over safety still run high. More than half (52 percent) of parents said they have or would prevent their child from participating in a sport because of concerns about the risks. Their biggest fears are broken bones, sprains and strains as well as concussion, followed by dehydration and heat illness, overuse or stress-related injuries and dental injuries.


Parents’ concerns are understandable.  According to the CDC, recreational and sports-related injuries account for an estimated 3.2 million visits to the emergency room each year for children ages 5 to 14. Additionally, sports-related injuries are the top cause of emergency room visits for youth ages 12 to 17.


“Parents clearly appreciate the benefits of their children participating in sports and understandably want to ensure they are as safe as possible, however we firmly believe the benefits of sports far outweigh the risks, and there are actions parents can take to reduce the risk of injuries related to sports participation,” said Tory Lindley, MA, ATC, president of NATA. “For example, parents should ask about the coach’s training, emergency action plans and, most importantly, if there is a medical professional on site to provide care should an injury or illness occur. Ideally, an athletic trainer would be present, especially for high-risk sports, to make those medical decisions and ensure your child’s safety is the top priority.”


While most of the parent respondents say they have taken or would take steps to protect their children, learning the signs and symptoms of common injuries and asking about the use of proper safety equipment is only cited by half of the respondents. Fewer than half share or would share their child’s medical history with the school or club and only a third have discussed the game’s rules with their children so they understand how to play the game safely. Only a little more than one-quarter (28 percent) said they have asked or would ask about the availability of an athletic trainer or other medical personnel during games and practices.


Ultimately, about half of parents say their child’s interest is the driving factor regarding the decision to participate in sports, while about a third said the child’s safety was most important.


“The survey results suggest most parents want to support their child’s interests, but in a safe way,” said Lindley. “The good news is there are many resources available to them, no matter the sport or age of their child.”


The survey results are being announced with the launch of NATA’s At Your Own Risk Share Your Story campaign, which features a video series of testimonials from professional athletes, coaches and sports medicine physicians. The first series highlights the role of parents in sports safety. At Your Own Risk (, a resource to educate parents and athletes about youth sports safety, is also offering a Parent Checklist for Youth Sports Safety, a simple tool that every parent can use to learn how to advocate for a safer approach to sports for their child.  


The seven-question ORC International CARAVAN® Omnibus Survey was conducted online May 22-27, 2018. Respondents were 18 years of age or older and asked to think of their oldest child when answering all questions in the survey.