Injuries happen in sports; how do I shield my son from them?

Being around sports as much as I am, whether it’s high school, college or pro, I see a lot of players suffering injuries.

It’s a part of the game for sure, but the high number of concussions these athletes have been receiving in recent years is pretty disturbing to me.

Clinton Portis – former Denver Bronco and Washington Redskin – recently came out and said that he regularly played with concussions during his time in the NFL.

It’s gotten so bad that in all levels of football, rules and protocols have been put in place to prevent the high number of concussions that have been occurring.

This subject really hits hard for me here at home, because my 11-year-old is playing AAU basketball right now and I worry about him EVERY time he steps on the basketball court, whether it’s in a practice or a tournament game. I’m always worrying about him barreling into another kid and their heads meeting, or him overextending himself on a play to try and keep the ball from going out of bounds and running into a wall.

It’s the father in me. I know my other parents out there that have kids in organized sports are with me on this one.

Thank goodness my six-year-old isn’t into sports quite yet. He plays the viola, which is a whole lot safer than basketball or football.

I attend as many of his practices and tournament games as I can, and I’m proud to see his growth in the short period of time he’s played, and I’m always encouraging him to stay aggressive on offense and defense…within reason of course.

I’m not the type of dad that gives him the insane “Rah-Rah” speech, telling him to go rip another kid’s head off. I tell him it’s a controlled aggression and for him to go out, have fun, but most importantly be careful.

I don’t want him out there with his mind totally focused on not getting hurt and not being aggressive, but at the end of the day, he’s 11. I’ve been down roads he’s yet to travel, and I’ve played in football and basketball games when I was his age where I’ve gotten busted up pretty good.

I don’t want it to happen to him, but at the same time I know it’s a part of sports, it’s a part of life and it’s a part of him growing up. He’s got to walk his own path in life, with close supervision from his mother and me of course, until we feel it’s time for him to blaze his own trail.

The other day at practice, he was tumbling and fighting for a ball and one of the kids accidentally popped him on the head as they were going for the ball. When we got home, he said, “Dad, it feels like I have a black eye, can you look and see if I do?” The man and dad in me first thought, ‘Cool! My boy is gettin’ it in on the court…he’s not scared to rumble,’ but the nurturing side of me was worried that he might indeed have a black eye.

He was fine, but he’s coming to realize that injuries like that (and Lord forbid, concussions) are a part of playing sports. He’s learning to adjust to that.

There’s a lot of times I watch him run up and down the court and he’s in pretty much every scrum for the basketball, and I love that about him. Then I see the decision making part of him in action at other times. I can see the gears working in his head and him saying ‘Gee, I wonder if I should really go all out on this one. There’s a lot of bodies flying out there.’

His mother and I teach him to rely on God and let Him be his protector and his guide. He also looks to us to be his protector and his guide during his growth process.

We’ll always be those things for him, but there comes a time – as much as I don’t like to say this – when he’ll have to be responsible for his own safety and protection. We have to cut the reigns at some point in his life.

Right now, that point and that time is on the basketball court.