Accident Prevention: Tips for Athletes and Instructors
December 24, 2014
In sports such as gymnastics and cheerleading, you don’t have the same kind of protective gear as high contact sports. There aren’t generally helmets and bulky knee or shoulder pads. Instead, you have pits, mats, and teammates or coaches to catch and assist you when you fall. That puts a lot of emphasis on awareness, the proper use of equipment and safety education.
How to Prevent Accidents as an Athlete
If you are at a gym, pool, trampoline park, skate park or any other sport-specific area- the first imperative is to always read the facility’s rules and regulations. They can get pretty long but they are there to encourage your safety. Most accidents are preventable- the rules are there to tell you how. Let’s face it, when you’re pumped up on adrenaline because you just nailed a new move or stunt, it can’t hurt to have those rules fresh in your mind to combat the adrenaline rush that’s telling you that you can do anything.
On top of knowing the rules, it’s helpful to know exactly what you are attempting to do, before you do it. The best way to prevent accidents is to be familiar with the equipment you’re using, to always use the proper equipment for the task at hand, to know the risks and the proper technique for each skill you attempt and, of course, to never practice potentially dangerous skills alone. Just like reading the rules, preparedness plays a key role in staying safe.
And it’s particularly important to have another person present during all practices in case of injury. It’s even better if that person is familiar with the common injuries and risks of your sport as well as your own personal medical risks. That is why many facilities require an instructor or staff member to be present at all times.
Finally, listen to your body. In a structured class environment, you learn skills in a progression so that your body can adapt to new movements and you can build the muscle necessary to safely attempt new skills. When trying new athletic maneuvers, some soreness and fatigue is to be expected. But if you are experiencing more than a few aches and pains- there is probably something bigger going on. You may need to slow down, find some conditioning exercises to build muscle or strengthen joints or even seek professional or medical advice before continuing.
How to Prevent Accidents as an Instructor
As a precautionary measure, instructors should always inform students of the rules of the equipment and facilities used during practice. Assuming that the guardians and/or students have already covered the rules as requested by your business is a risky assumption at best. Try covering the rules as a part of the lesson, particularly with younger students who tend to need frequent reminders.
Before asking the students to perform a stunt or try a new skill- always demonstrate the proper technique yourself or with another student or coach. During the demonstration, try to go slow and show the isolated movements in the muscles and joints and point out any high risk injury points. This is to demonstrate to students what kinds of behavior to avoid and why. If you wait until after the students try the maneuver to explain and correct their technique, you are taking a big risk on someone getting injured.
Emphasize open communication about aches, pains or problems. As an athlete, each student needs to take their body seriously and report any serious pain or problems during practice. While some soreness and fatigue is expected a part of the physical learning process, some students may require additional conditioning exercises if they encounter muscle pains or weak joints to properly carry out the technique. In group learning environments, students may be less likely to report these complaints and push themselves past their limits. By including these points in the lesson, you open the doors to conversation.
Take educational courses on health, safety and emergency preparedness. Many facilities and states require this from instructors, but even if yours does not- the information you learn from these types of courses could dramatically improve the outcome of an emergency situation. Not only can you end up preventing serious injuries caused by improper actions or care- you could potentially save lives.
Lastly, it’s important to have adequate supervision during class. This can be really rough on instructors with a lot of students. In a group class, if one or two students seem to require your attention for the majority of the class period, it may be time to suggest private lessons. Not to single out the student(s), but to ensure that they can keep up with the group and to open up more time for assisting other students and maintaining a focus on safety and learning. If the students are not willing or able to incorporate private lessons, speak to a supervisor to see what actions to take or if there is another staff member available to help you supervise the class. It can be overwhelming in large groups to be held solely responsible for the health and well being of your students. Asking for help when you need it is a wise choice.