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Sports Safety

Important sports safety for the entire family

Participating in sports is great for children and adults, both physically and psychologically. Sports can increase physical coordination, fitness, and self-esteem. In addition, sports can teach important lessons about teamwork and self-discipline.

However, because children's bodies are still growing and their coordination is still developing, children are more susceptible to sports injuries. Approximately 3.5 million children ages 14 and under are treated for sports-related injuries each year. Half of all of those injuries can be prevented with proper use of safety gear, changes to the playing environment, and the establishment of sports rules that help prevent injuries.

Most sports injuries occur due to the following factors:

  • Lack of education and awareness about safety precautions and potential injury
  • Inappropriate or lack of equipment
  • Improperly conditioned players

The following are general safety precautions recommended to help prevent sports injuries:

  • Wear appropriate safety gear and equipment.
  • The playing environment should be well-lit and appropriate for the sport in question.
  • Safety rules should be enforced.
  • Players should stay hydrated during and after sports.
  • Be sure to take breaks while training and during games to prevent overuse injuries.

Safety gear and equipment

Safety gear should be sport-specific and may include such items as goggles, mouthguards, shin-elbow-knee pads, and helmets. The safety gear should fit properly. In addition, sports equipment (such as bats, baskets, and goals) should be in good working condition and any damage should be repaired or the item should be replaced. The playing area should be free from debris and water.

The importance of a physical checkup

To make sure you or your child is physically fit to participate in a particular sport, a physician should conduct a "sports physical." These physicals can reveal physical strengths and weaknesses and help determine which sports are appropriate.

When is my child ready to participate in sports?

Starting a child in sports at too young an age may not benefit the child physically. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children begin participating in team sports when they express strong interest and you feel they can handle it. Age and size shouldn't be the only measures used. Also consider their ability to understand the concept of rules and teamwork. Keep in mind that no two children are alike, and some may not be ready physically or psychologically to take part in a team sport until they are older. A parent should base his or her decision on whether to allow the child to take part in a particular sport based on the following:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Build
  • Physical development
  • Emotional development
  • Child's interest in the sport

Note: AAP recommends that late-developing teens avoid contact sports until their bodies have developmentally "caught up" to their peers' bodies.

The importance of hydration

Sweat lost during sports must be replaced with equal amounts of fluids, usually 1 to 1 1/2 liters per hour of intense sports activity. You or your child should drink fluids before, during, and after each practice or game. To avoid stomach cramps from drinking large amounts of fluids at once, drink about one cup of water (or a type of sports drink) every 15 to 20 minutes. Drinks to avoid include those with carbonation and caffeine.

The following are the most common symptoms of dehydration. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Slight weight loss

If you or your child exhibits signs of dehydration, make sure you or he or she receives fluids immediately, as well as a snack. The symptoms of dehydration may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

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