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Drew: April is Youth Safety Month

By Samuetta Hill Drew

April has been designated as National Youth Sports Safety Month. It was initiated by a loving and devoted mother from Massachusetts whose daughter unfortunately was seriously injured while playing her sport of choice – tennis. The back injury ended her daughter’s career.
Safekids reports that an estimated 1.24 million children are injured yearly while participating in various sports. Parents and coaches play a vital role in keeping young athletes healthy. With this in mind, April is an excellent time for any team moms or dads to host a parent session or workshop highlighting safety practices. An athletic trainer, physical therapist, or others from health-related fields would be suitable speakers to talk with the players, parents and coaches. A video regarding this topic could also be used with the group to help prevent and/or decrease the number of serious sports related injuries. Let’s review some essential safety measures recommended by many youth sport authorities.  These safety recommendations are meant to help parents ensure their child remains healthy and safe while playing sports:

• Before participating in any organized sport, a PPE (pre-participation physical exam) should be done by a doctor. Some teams have a designated doctor where others do not. The doctor can identify any pre-existing health condition that could hinder the child from playing a sport. Some of these conditions, when identified early, can be addressed thereby allowing the child to play the sport.
• Children athletes should always remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during and after play. Make sure you bring a water bottle to all practices and games.
• It is very important that the youth warm up with an exercise routine prior to playing. This releases any muscle tension and prepares the joints for play. A proper warm-up will help prevent muscles tears and sprains. Never play through the pain.
• Take some time off from the routine when participating in sports. Rest helps to heal the body. Plan for one day per week and a minimum of a month annually between sports.
• Know the signs of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. These are serious medical issues which could lead to a coma and even death if not detected promptly and treated. Coaches should be certified in first aid and CPR. Coaches also need to know the signs and symptoms of a concussion.

Using proper techniques while practicing and playing, along with wearing the right properly fitted protective equipment is another way parents and coaches can Keep an Eye on Safety. Playing any sport has an inherent risk factor for injury but using these and other simple safety steps should help prevent and decrease sport-related injuries in young athletes.