Consider safety issues during youth sports

By Pamela Redwine Nutrition & Food Safety Area Agent Mississippi State University Extension Service Submitted by Lisa Stewart, Webster County Director

The weather is warm, the sun is out and kids are starting to hit the field for spring sports season. So April is a great time to recognize National Youth Sports Safety Month. While sports are a great way for kids to stay active, be fit and build teamwork, it’s also important to stay safe. Every year, more than 20 million American kids participate in sports. But nearly 1 million will suffer a serious sports-related injury. Strains, sprains and fractures are the most common injuries in kids. So if your child is participating in youth sports be sure to make yourself – and your child – aware of all the proper safety issues and procedures. Preventing Injuries During Youth Sports According to information provided by the University of Denver, here are some ways to prevent sports injuries: • Enroll your child in organized sports through programs that are committed to injury prevention. • Make sure coaches and support staff are CPR and first-aid certified, and the program has emergency protocols in place. • Make sure your child’s coaches are educated on proper use of equipment, that equipment is maintained and that coaches enforce rules regarding proper equipment use. • Invest in proper gear for your child’s selected sport. Safety gear that is too big or too small won’t be as effective as gear that fits properly. Teach your child how to properly care for and use sports and safety equipment. • Include warm-ups and cool-downs as part of your child’s sport participation. Warm-up exercises help minimize the likelihood of muscle strain and make the body’s tissues more flexible. Cool-down exercises help loosen muscles that tighten during exercise. • Encourage hydration during sport participation. Whether you choose water or sports drinks, ensure your child hydrates frequently while active. • Ensure your child wears sunscreen and a hat (when possible) during outside activities. Children should play a variety of sports to encourage cross-training. • Dr. Amy Valasek, a pediatric sports medicine expert at Johns Hopkins, recommends that children engage in no more than five days per week of sport-specific training to allow the body to recover. Treating Injuries For immediate treatment of sprains and strains, remember RICE • Rest. Reduce or stop using the injured area for at least 48 hours. • Ice. Put an ice pack on the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times per day. Wrap the ice pack in a towel prior to use. • Compression. Consult your doctor on the best option to compress an injured area. • Elevation. Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to decrease swelling. If an injury is not fully healed before a child returns to a sport, it is possible that the child will suffer a re-injury in the same area. It is important that the injury be allowed to heal, and that the child return to normal activity gradually to reduce the risk of re-injury. Even if the child is eager to return to playing a sport, he or she should take it slow and avoid overexertion. Always consult your doctor regarding any severe injuries or injuries with prolonged swelling and/or pain.