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Tips on Preventing Childhood Sports Injuries

By Janet Howard

It's one of a parent's typical worries. The phone rings at work. "Ms. Ramirez? Your son Raoul was injured during football practice. His knee may be badly hurt."

Childhood sports injuries like Raoul's may be inevitable, but there are some things a parent can do to help prevent them:

  • Enroll your child in organized sports through schools, community clubs and recreation areas where there may be adults who are certified athletic trainers (ATC). An ATC is also trained in the prevention, recognition and immediate care of athletic injuries.

  • Make sure your child uses the proper protective gear for a particular sport. This may lessen the chances of being injured.

  • Warmup exercises, such as stretching and light jogging, can help minimize the chance of muscle strain or other soft tissue injury during sports. Warmup exercises make the body's tissues warmer and more flexible.

  • Cooling down exercises loosen the body's muscles that have tightened during exercise. Make warmups and cool downs part of your child's routine before and after sports participation.

If your child receives a soft tissue injury, commonly known as a sprain or a strain, or a bone injury, the best immediate treatment is easy to remember. "RICE" (rest, ice, compression and elevation) the injury. Get professional treatment if any injury is severe. A severe injury means having an obvious dislocation of the bone or joint, prolonged swelling or pain.

Heat-related illnesses are another type of sports injury requiring close monitoring. Children perspire less than adults and need a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating.

Also, don't forget to have children wear sunscreen and a hat to reduce the chance of sunburn. Sun protection may also decrease the chances of malignant melanoma — a potentially deadly skin cancer — or other skin cancers that can occur later in life. It is also very important that your child has access to water or a sports drink to stay properly hydrated while playing.

Even though Raoul got hurt, his involvement in sports is important. Exercise may reduce his chances of obesity, which is becoming more common in children. It may also lessen his risk of diabetes, a disease that is sometimes associated with a lack of exercise and poor eating habits. Sports also help children build social skills and provides them with a general sense of well-being.


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