Kids, Sports and Safety: What Parents Should Know

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Kids, Sports and Safety: What Parents Should Know
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The fun and excitement kids have when they play sports is one of the main reasons why their parents let them play. The opportunity to stay active and learn how to work with other kids as a team are more good reasons for children to participate in sports. However, parents are also concerned about keeping their kids safe from injury. Although no sport is risk-free, there are steps parents and kids can take to do their part to stay safe on and off the field.

Danger Ahead
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Danger Ahead

It's no secret that some sports get more attention than others when it comes to sports injuries. According to Dr. Frank Dawson, medical director at Franklin Square Sports Medicine in Baltimore and associate team physician for the Baltimore Ravens, the key to determining which sports are at a high risk of injury is looking at the level of contact and collision in the sport. Not surprisingly, tackle football, cheerleading, rugby, soccer and gymnastics can result in a variety of injuries.

Risky Recreation
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Risky Recreation

Although football and cheerleading get a lot of attention for injuries, they are not the only sports where kids could get hurt. Children also are at risk for injury playing baseball, basketball, lacrosse, track and field, volleyball, tennis, golf and every other sport available. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 2.7 million children age 20 and younger were treated for "sports and recreation" injuries from 2001 to 2009. "I think there's risk for injuries in any sport," Dawson says.

Warning Signs
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Warning Signs

Concussion easily tops the list for most common sports injury with kids. "Every sport is at risk for concussion," says Chris Novak, a coach with i9 Sports in Rochester, Mich. Signs of concussion include headache, sensitivity to light and/or sound, disorientation, double or blurry vision, nausea, and vomiting. If a child exhibits slurred speech, loss of consciousness, vision changes, seizure activity or any asymmetry in the appearance of their body, Dawson says to head to the ER. If the only symptoms are headache or fatigue, he recommends rest at home.

Hurtful Play
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Hurtful Play

There are a number of other common injuries for kids playing sports. These include sprains, primarily to the ankle or wrist; fractures, also prevalent in ankles and wrists; eye injuries in projectile sports like baseball, softball and tennis; and shin splints and muscle strains, Dawson says. Bumps to the head and body as well as bruises, cuts and scrapes also are quite common, Novak says.

Don't Get Fooled
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Don't Get Fooled

Parents and kids should take caution to prevent overuse injury in any sport. As opposed to acute injury – such as a broken leg during football -- these injuries could sneak up on a child as a result of overtraining or inadequate stretching. For instance, a child running cross country could suffer a shin splint. Without proper attention and care, that shin splint could turn into a stress fracture.

Get Prepped
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Get Prepped

While parents cannot protect their children from every injury, they can prepare their kids to help prevent injury. "Proper preparation is very important," Dawson says. A key component is proper hydration and nutrition for children. Also, every child should stretch before and after practice and every game. "The proper way to approach pregame stretching is to progress slowly, increasing the stretch steadily and without bouncing," Dawson says. "You should stretch after you participate in a low-intensity warm-up like jogging to help increase blood flow and flexibility prior to stretching."

Make It a Group Event
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Make It a Group Event

Another step in preparing kids for playing sports and preventing injuries is getting their parents involved, Novak says. "We have to teach kids to be aware of their bodies and be aware of their movements." Mom and dad are crucial in assisting their kids away from their coach. Keeping kids as safe as possible when playing sports needs to be a team effort.

Do Your Research
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Do Your Research

Another step parents can take in preparing their children to play sports is researching the sports programs. "Research the program, and find out what type of injury policy they have in place to keep kids safe," Novak says. "Talk with coaches and parents who have experience in the program for firsthand information." The more you know, the better prepared you and your child can be.

Special Treatment
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Special Treatment

If your child does sustain a possible fracture or break, Dawson recommends taking that child to see a pediatrician who is familiar with "growth plate" injuries. The growth plate is a less durable tissue that allows the bone to grow and lengthen as the child matures. "If possible, have the child seen at a pediatric ER or pediatric specialist so they get the proper care to ensure proper growth after the injury," he says.

As Safe As Possible
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As Safe As Possible

Given that kids are at risk for injury in every sport, it may seem that no sport is safe for kids to play. "Proper preparation and protection can reduce risk, but risk still exists," Dawson says. However, that should not be a deterrent to your child's participation in sports. "The risks of driving in a car to football practice far outweigh the risk of any injury you could sustain playing football," Dawson says.

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