Tips for Keeping Young Athletes Safe

Doctor's OK recommended before kids start playing sports, expert says

FRIDAY, April 1 (HealthDay News) -- It's important to keep injury prevention in mind as children begin spring sports activities, says Dr. Steven Greer, of the MCGHealth Sports Medicine Center in Augusta, Ga.

He offers these tips for parents and children.

All children should undergo a physical examination before they participate in sports programs. If they've been inactive for an extended period of time, they should begin increasing their activity level several weeks before they start team practices or game play.

Hydration is crucial. Children should drink 16 ounces of water or a sports drink one to two hours before play, another 7 to 10 ounces about 10 to 20 minutes before play, and 6 to 8 ounces every 20 or 30 minutes during play, Greer advises.

Before a practice or game, children should warm up with light exercise for 5 to 10 minutes and then stretch. They should hold stretches for at least 20 seconds and preferably 30 seconds.

Baseball, tennis, volleyball and certain other sports often require repetitive movements that can strain or tear muscles and tendons. Exercises that specifically target these areas can help reduce the risk of injury, Greer says.

Appropriate, properly fitted safety gear is necessary. Children who play sports that require a lot of running need well-cushioned shoes that aid balance. A specialty fitness store can help.

Young athletes should eat breakfast every day and not skip meals. But eating too soon before a workout or game can cause digestive discomfort. Meals are best eaten about three to four hours before exercise, while small snacks, such as a banana, can be consumed an hour to two before exercise, according to Greer.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about preventing children's sports injuries.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: MCGHealth, news release, March 25, 2011

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