Play It Safe

Many youth sports injuries can be prevented by following these practical suggestions

Doctor talking to a young woman about sports injuries.Sports and exercise offer undeniable benefits. But for millions of young athletes, they also bring risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sports injuries among high school athletes alone are on the rise, accounting for nearly two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits, and 30,000 hospitalizations every year. Injuries range from strains, sprains, and fractures to concussions and heat stroke. Experts attribute the high rate of youth sports injuries to:

  • Overuse
  • Trauma
  • Lack of preventive measures (including proper equipment, training, and conditioning)

The CDC estimates that more than half of all sports injuries involving children and teens are preventable. Freddie H. Fu, MD, chairman of the UPMC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and renowned sports medicine expert, blames much of the increase in injuries on today’s trend of kids focusing year-round on one sport.

“Kids are doing too much. Now, there’s no off-season. When they’re not playing, they are practicing and at a very intense level,” he says.

Keep Your Kids in the Game

Dr. Fu says it’s important for parents and coaches alike to understand the dangers and take steps to keep children safe. He recommends the following:

  1. Cross-train and avoid specializing in one sport to create balance and avoid breakdowns in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones.
  2. Take time off from competition to allow muscles and joints time to rest and recover.
  3. Use the right gear and make sure it’s in good condition and fits properly. Insist your child uses the recommended safety gear.
  4. Ensure proper techniques are used for throwing, running, and swinging.
  5. Take time to stretch before a workout/game and cool down after.
  6. Maintain good hydration when playing to avoid fatigue and keep the body cool.

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