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Preventing sports injuries in children

Bookmark and Share Sports play an enormous role in children's lives. More kids than ever are participating in athletics, and at a much younger age. With so much strenuous activity, it's important for parents of young athletes to learn about injury prevention. The statistics tell the story: each year, about 4.4 million children between 5 and 18 years old are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sports injuries.

It's common sense
Pre-season conditioning
Good coaching and supervision
The right equipment
Rest the body
Picking the sport
Tips for preventing baseball injuries
Tips for preventing soccer injuries

It's common sense
Virtua sports medicine specialist and orthopaedic surgeon, Merrick J. Wetzler, MD, says: "There are many reasons why sports injuries occur, but most can be prevented. Common sense is a parent's first line of defense for protecting a child from injury, along with a knowledge of some basic injury-preventing guidelines."

Pre-season conditioning
Mark Sobel, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Virtua, cautions: "Injuries often occur at the beginning of a sports season when children who have been relatively out of shape suddenly begin exercising. Muscles, bones and joints may become overused and kids end up with strains and stress fractures. Children need to get into shape before the sports season starts. Doing some daily running, biking or swimming prior to the sports season is ideal."

Make sure children do slow, easy, gradual stretches before and after any activity to prevent pulled muscles and shin splints. Bouncing up and down when stretching can do more harm than good.

Good coaching and supervision
Appropriate coaching and supervision ensures that children fully understand the game and follow the rules. Parents should make an effort to meet their child's coach and to watch the child throughout the sports season to make sure the youngster is really enjoying the experience. In these ways, parents can feel more confident that their child is learning sports safety and good sportsmanship.

The right equipment
Make sure children wear the proper uniform, equipment and protection such as a mouth guard, shin pads, chest protector and helmet. Shoes should fit properly, feel comfortable and be appropriate for the activity.

Rest the body
Another way to avoid injury is to not have your child play multiple sports at the same time. Each sport requires the use of different muscles. Playing on multiple teams simultaneously does not give a young athlete's body enough time to heal and rest. Fatigue reduces the body's ability to react, decreasing performance as well as predisposing a youngster to injuries.

Most important, if a child is injured during a game, get an immediate evaluation by a trained medical professional. Children often say they feel okay so that they won't miss "the big game." That's why it's so important that they are medically cleared before returning to any physical activity.

Picking the sport
Sometimes, parents push children to perform so they can relive their own sports fantasies. Children should be able to decide for themselves what they like. Youngsters who are not interested in a sport tend to miss practices and games, and don't stay in the physical condition needed to play properly, all of which can lead to injury.

Participation in sports is a wonderful way for kids to exercise, and to learn about discipline and teamwork. Make it a happy and healthy experience for them all season long with an emphasis on injury prevention.

The game plan to prevent sports injuries
Soccer and baseball have some of the highest statistics for sports injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. A blow to the head during a soccer game, or a twisted knee while running bases are just two common injuries children face. The following tips can help reduce injuries. Baseball

  • Limit pitches to 100 per week per child.
  • Never pitch through pain.
  • Use breakaway bases to decrease sliding injuries.
  • Wear protective equipment properly; make sure helmets fit snugly and securely.
  • Choose a helmet that protects as much of the eyes as possible.
  • Don't wear shoes with metal spikes.
  • Play on fields free of holes and debris.
  • Dress goal posts with padding.
  • Wear protective gear such as shin pads.
  • Use helmets and softer balls while practicing heading techniques.
  • Secure eyeglasses with a sports band; use lenses made of a shatterproof material.
  • Wear mouth guards during practice and games, especially goalkeepers and field players.