Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Preventing sports injuries

Now that school is out, many kids are enjoying summer sports activities. Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us Monday morning to share some advice on how to prevent injuries to kids.

Meghan Kulig: How common are sports injuries?

Dr. Arnold: Over 2 million children are treated in emergency rooms every year for sports and recreation injuries. While sports are a great way to learn about sportsmanship and physical fitness and about being a team player, it's important to take steps to minimize injury risk.

Meghan Kulig: What are some steps a parent should take to try to prevent injuries before the game or season begins?

Dr. Arnold: Before your child starts playing, make sure your child has had a recent physical exam, so any underlying injuries or conditions can be detected. It's also a good time to remind kids to always tell a parent or coach if they are hurt. Kids sometimes feel pressure to play through pain, but that can make injuries worse.

Meghan Kulig: Can you tell us some about overuse injuries?

Dr. Arnold: These are injuries resulting from repetitive actions. Examples are shin splints, Little League elbow, or runner's knee. These are becoming increasingly common in kids and can be harmful since kids' bodies are still growing and developing. A child's body cannot take the same stress that an adult's can. It's important to seek treatment for overuse injuries early to try to avoid chronic problems. Don't ignore pain.

Meghan Kulig: What are some ideas to try to avoid overuse injuries?

Dr. Arnold: Vary the sports your child plays, and avoid having him or her concentrate just on one sport. Take a day or two off from a particular sport each week. Many experts recommend at least ten consecutive weeks off from a specific sport each year. Also, appropriate warm-up, and focusing on proper mechanics and technique can help. Again, don't ignore pain.

Meghan Kulig: How about hydration?

Dr. Arnold: That is a very important point. Make sure your child is drinking plenty of non-caffeinated fluids before starting play. Remind them to take breaks to drink water or sports drinks about every 20 minutes. Don't wait until they are thirsty.

Meghan Kulig: Final tips?

Dr. Arnold: Proper equipment is important. Sports gear can definitely be expensive for parents, but well-fitting equipment can help reduce injury. Avoid chewing gum and wearing jewelry while playing.

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