Youth Sports Safety 101
Millions of young athletes get broken bones, sprains and other injuries each year. Here's what you need to know to keep them safe.
1. Get a pre-participation physical exam. Taking your child for a checkup before the sports season is essential. “Basically a ‘well-child’ checkup, this is especially important for kids who play sports, because exerting the body during a game or practice may cause a previously undetected problem—like a heart condition—to crop up,” explains Stephen Daniels, MD, PhD, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Make sure the doctor reviews your child’s medical history and thoroughly examines him, including measuring his blood pressure and listening to his heart. The doctor should also make sure that your child’s muscles and joints are in good shape.
2. Encourage kids to cross-train. “Overuse injuries, such as stress fractures, occur because you’re repetitively using one body part, which doesn’t give it the downtime to repair itself,” says Margot Putukian, MD, a team physician at Princeton University and a spokeswoman for the American College of Sports Medicine. If your child is very focused on one sport, make sure that her training also incorporates activities that work different muscles. For example, if your daughter runs track, urge her to add swimming to her regimen.
3. Confirm that AEDs (automated external defibrillators) are available at practices and all games, says Brian Robinson, ATC, chairman of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Secondary School Committee. These devices can be lifesaving if a student goes into cardiac arrest (the heart stops beating due to an electrical problem), because they deliver a shock that restarts the heart’s normal rhythm.
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