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Play It Safe

Simple precautions can prevent injuries to young athletes

SUNDAY, April 20, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- As playgrounds, ball fields and courts start to fill up with kids this spring, safety is increasingly on parents' minds -- a concern that's well-founded, considering the recent record of athletic injuries.

Some 3 million to 5 million youngsters are treated annually in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for sports-related accidents, according to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation Inc. (NYSSF). Another 8 million receive non-urgent care from their family physicians for athletic injuries.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently estimated that injuries to children younger than 15 years old involved with 29 popular sports cost the U.S. public more than $49 billion.

It's a big and growing problem, but, as NYSSF notes, most of these injuries can be prevented.

For those who want kids to be as safe as possible while playing baseball, softball, kickball, gymnastics, track and other sports, the foundation recommends reviewing safety issues such as these:

  • Are coaches, including those involved in school sports as well as volunteers who run youth leagues, certified in sports first aid and CPR?
  • Do coaches have written emergency plans in case of an accident, and have the plans been reviewed, rehearsed and revised this year?
  • Is there a first-aid kit and ice at the site of all practices and games?
  • Does the coach have young players do warm-ups, stretching and cool-down exercises?
  • Are the fields and facilities checked for safety and health hazards on a regular basis?
  • Are pre-participation physical examinations required?
  • Does the league have a parent code of conduct, and are parents asked to attend a meeting to communicate the league philosophy and this code?
  • Is safety equipment available or required? If so, does it meet national standards and is it in good condition?

Responses to these key safety concerns can help parents, coaches and public officials plan ways to improve youth athletic programs this spring -- and year-round.

More information

The American College of Sports Medicine offers suggestions for sports safety.

SOURCES: National Youth Sports Safety Foundation; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
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