(4/14/11) - As winter turns into spring and temperatures increase, so does the amount of time that children spend outdoors playing spring sports. This means that the number of injuries to children can also increase. Each year, more than 38 million children participate in sports in the United States and more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under are treated for sports injuries. Experts say as many as half the injuries sustained by youth while playing sports are preventable.
Safe Kids Florence, led by McLeod Health, is part of a national education campaign sponsored by Safe Kids USA and supported by Johnson & Johnson. The campaign is focusing on four areas which are critical to keeping young athletes healthy and safe: acute and overuse injury prevention; proper hydration before, during and after play; annual pre-participation physical prior to play, and concussion awareness, prevention, and screening methods.
"Children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms," said Lindsey Griffin, Injury Prevention Specialist for Safe Kids Florence. "Our goal is to reach coaches and parents and equip them with the critical information and resources to keep kids out of the emergency room."
Here are five important sports safety tips from Safe Kids Florence for coaches, parents, and league organizers to use to prevent sports-related injuries:
• Pre-Season Medical Screening: These exams can detect any underlying conditions the young athlete may have and therefore prevent a potential medical emergency.
• Safety gear: To prevent injuries, children playing sports should have access to and consistently use well-maintained safety equipment during both practices and games.
• Qualified coaching: Athletic coaches should be trained in both first aid and CPR, have a plan for responding to emergencies and have current knowledge of proper hydration methods (and establishing mandatory breaks) and concussion prevention, recognition and response. Coaches should also establish safety guidelines that athletes, parents and coaches will follow.
• Proper Conditioning: To prevent acute and overuse injuries, coaches should teach young athletes proper routines for both warm-ups and cool-downs before and after practice and play. This can help prevent sports-related injuries (such as muscle tears or sprains) by stretching and releasing any muscle tension.
• Hydration: Athletes should be encouraged to drink fluids (water or sports drink) 30 minutes before the activity begins and every 15-20 minutes during activity. Coaches should establish mandatory water breaks during practice and games—don't wait for the child to tell you he/she is thirsty.
• Rest: If young athletes are very tired or in pain, coaches and parents should encourage them to rest as this valuable recovery time can help prevent overuse injuries.
For more information on Safe Kids Florence or on sports injury prevention in general, please call Safe Kids Florence at 843-777-5021 or visit www.safekids.org/sports
About Safe Kids
Safe Kids Florence works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. Its members include Florence Country Sheriff's Department, City of Florence Police Department, South Carolina Highway Patrol, and the City of Florence Fire Department. Safe Kids Florence is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Florence was founded in 1995 and is led by McLeod Health and funded in part by the McLeod Foundation.