Sports parents worry and wait for an accident to happen

September 23, 2001|By Susan Reimer

Ever wonder why adults are so determined to be there to watch their kids' sporting events?

Is it because they are over-involved parents, who feel they must be at every event in order to choreograph their children's experiences?

Is it because they are egocentric, trying to rewrite the script of their failed athletic endeavors through their children?

Is it because they love to trade gossip and brag, and you can do plenty of both on the sidelines of a kids' game?

Is it because they have to drive them home anyway, so they might as well stay?

Is it because there is no place they'd rather be, and their presence demonstrates this love and devotion to their children?

Is it because the sands of the hourglass are sliding away, and children grow up so fast and they will be gone soon?

It is all of these things, and none of them.

We are determined to be there for our children's sporting events so we can ride to the hospital in the ambulance with them.

In my time as a sports parent, I have witnessed as many ambulances on the field as I have victories.

I have witnessed a compound leg fracture at the boys' soccer game. There was the cleat-to-the-windpipe in the girls' soccer game. There was the possible broken neck at the wrestling match. There was the blown-out knee at the girls' basketball game.

And I'm not even counting the ankle sprains, the pulled hamstrings and groin muscles, the separated shoulders or the hyper-extended elbows or torn rotator cuffs.

For all but one of the injuries I have witnessed, a parent was there to ride with the injured child to the hospital. But in one case, the mother was not there, and it took a long time to track her by cell phone. She has no doubt carried a load of guilt since.

As children grow and move up through the levels of recreational sports, parents quickly learn that the game, any game, gets rougher as the kids get older and bigger and more determined to win. I nearly fainted when I witnessed my first high school varsity boys' soccer match and saw the level of unprotected contact.

And it is the way of the world that team trainers, emergency medical technicians, nurses -- even doctors -- are unwilling to administer more than an ice pack without a parent's permission. A parent doesn't dare be out of reach in the event his child suffers a blow to the head or a chest wall injury.

The unhappy fact is that most athletes are injured not during games but during practices. When our kids were playing rec-league sports, we often killed time during the hourlong practices by hanging around and watching. But if you tried to supervise your child's high school sports practice, he would go nuts on you.

And if we have felt powerless to protect our children from random harm, the events of September 11 have made us feel more so.

I thought for a long time that this fear of what the pros call a "career-ending injury" was a dimension of my personal neurosis, and therefore I kept it to myself. No use letting the whole world know what a head case I was.

Then a friend of mine, a divorced mother of three boys, left town on a business trip, but not before e-mailing her itinerary and her cell phone number to her fellow soccer moms in the event her son suffered a devastating injury in the game she would miss.

She wanted to make sure one of us would ride to the hospital in the ambulance with him.

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