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Protecting Young Athletes from Sports Injuries

When kids get involved in organized sports and compete, they can learn valuable life skills and keep their bodies active and fit. As parents, you want to see them have fun, make new friends and feel successful while being safe from injuries. What can you do? Let’s get the score and stats on sports injury prevention.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than 2.6 million children between the ages of 0-19 years old are treated in the Emergency Department every year for sports and recreation-related injuries. Sports-related injuries are also the leading cause of emergency room visits for 12-17 year olds.

Here are some steps and injury prevention tips you can take to protect your young athletes:
  1. A physical exam for children and adolescents is recommended before starting new sports activities.
  2. Get in gear. When participating in active sports, make sure they wear the right protective gear for that activity, such as knee, shoulder and elbow pads, wrist guards or helmets. If it’s worn out, out grown or doesn’t fit properly, it may not offer adequate protection.
  3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Make sure to have plenty of water or sports drinks on hand at practices and games to help replenish fluids as they perspire.
  4. Stretch it out. Before playing an active sport, stretching after a warm-up is recommended to help muscles prepare for running, kicking, reaching, jumping, bending, sliding, twisting and more. Stretching properly can increase range of motion, flexibility and performance.
  5. What’s the temperature? To prevent heat-related illness, pay attention to temperature and humidity levels and allow the child time to adjust to hot environments. Also, make sure they are dressed appropriately for warm or cold weather, and have options in case of sudden changes in weather conditions.
  6. Have a plan. Make sure the team organizer or school has a plan in place should an accident or injury occur, and that they are proactively teaching kids safety techniques to lower their chances for concussions or other injuries.
  7. Keep a First Aid Kit on hand.
  8. Don’t let them play through pain. If an injury happens, have the child checked out, especially if dizziness, headaches, vomiting, significant bleeding or persistent pain or soreness is involved.
Most importantly, make sure your child is placed on an age-appropriate team that fits his or her ability and maturity level, and includes proper instruction and rules of the game. In addition to getting proper rest and nutrition, kids who participate in sports and fitness activities throughout childhood increase their chances for livelong weight management, a key factor in overall health. That’s a goal that would make any parent proud.

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