In my “Kids Need To Get Hurt” post I argued that in order to deal with pain kids need to experience pain, but I rarely argue a stance without providing what I think is a possible solution to the problem.
First, we need to state the problem and here is what I think the problem is:
Kids need to be protected from pain and injury but still have fun doing what they love to do
Here is my problem with the above problem – it is impossible to protect anyone from everything. Since the ground is hard and solid enough to support a person’s weight, it is also hard and solid enough to cause injury if a person falls onto it. Since we can’t get protect children against the laws of physics we must work with the laws.
Here is my solution to the protect children from injury while letting them have fun problem:
Kids need to learn how to absorb impacts to lessen their chance of injury while still having fun doing what they love to do
Since we cannot take protection to the logical extreme of placing all children in padded rooms and forcing them to use virtual presence devices to interact with people outside of their padded rooms, we should be teaching children how to fall down safely.
I officiate every age level of lacrosse and very few players know how to fall down properly. When they get hit or trip themselves up they instinctively reach out with their arms. Unfortunately, this action causes them to fracture fingers, forearms, elbows, and collarbones. A straightened arm is a rigid structure with very little “give”. The players who don’t straighten out an arm to brace for impact don’t do anything at all, and they hit the ground with a sickening thud, which whiplashes their head into the ground. Now they are dealing with spine, neck, and cranial injuries along with a potential concussion.
All because no one ever taught them how to override their natural instincts when falling down.
I spent six years training in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing to learn how to better defend myself. What may surprise many people is that most self-defense classes start with the lesson on how to fall down if someone pushes you over. The reasoning is simple: it is very hard to defend yourself if you get pushed over and smack the back of your head against the concrete. You’ll be dazed, and unable to prevent the coming beating. In order to avoid this scenario, self-defense classes teach individuals how to hit the ground hard without impacting their head with a high amount of force.
The video below explains how to perform a break fall when hit from the front, and how to perform a roll through when hit from behind or the sides. If players practice these moves on a padded surface enough times, they will develop muscle memory that will kick in if they get hit or tripped on the lacrosse field. I played for ten years and I hit the ground a lot, but I never sustained serious injuries because I knew how to roll through contact with the ground and pop right back up.
A key point to remember about these techniques – You will get hurt when you perform them on a hard surface. That is the point. Your entire body will hurt and be extremely sore, but the one part of your body that will be almost unaffected is your head.
I believe the above video is one potential solution to the problem of kids getting hurt playing a contact sport. They may still get hurt performing a break fall or a roll through, but their chances of getting seriously injured are lessened as the force from the impact is dissipated over their entire body and not on their head or extremities.
We can’t keep protecting kids from everything that may hurt them. What we can do is responsibly teach them that there are dangerous things out in the world and how to deal with them.