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Safe Kids & Sports Safety – resources available

August 15, 2011

Young School Athletes at Risk for Sports-Related Injuries, including Heat Stroke

– Heat Stroke is One of the Leading Causes of Sudden Death in Sports

– Safe Kids of Otsego County Encourages Parents and Coaches to Protect Young Athletes On and Off the Field

With many young school athletes working hard this month to prepare for Fall sports, Safe Kids of Otsego County is encouraging parents and coaches to keep children safe on and off the field and prevent sports injuries, including heat-related illnesses. Nearly 3/4 of U.S. households have at least one child who plays organized sports. Unfortunately, about 3.5 million children receive medical treatment for a sports-related injury each year, and as many as half of these injuries are preventable according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With high temperatures and vigorous practice sessions underway for school age children, parents and coaches have an even greater role to play in keeping children safe and injury free,” said Rich McCaffery, Community Educator with Bassett Healthcare Network and Safe Kids of Otsego County. “It’s vitally important to set realistic expectations for children about sports and understand how to help them prepare properly, prevent injuries and play safely.”

In a nationwide education campaign, supported by its founding sponsor Johnson & Johnson, Safe Kids USA and Otsego County have hosted more than 150 Youth Sports Safety Clinics for parents and youth coaches since April.

According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the number of heat-related injuries from 1997 to 2006 increased 133 percent. Youth accounted for the largest proportion of heat-related injuries or 47.6 percent.

“Over the past five years, the number of heat stroke deaths from exertion in youth sports is higher than in any five-year period in the past 35 years,” said Douglas J. Casa, PhD, ATC, FACSM, FNATA, and chief operating officer with the Korey Stringer Institute, Neag School of Education, for the University of Connecticut. “A coach needs to have the knowledge to prevent the condition, recognize the signs or symptoms, and then rely on athletic trainers or emergency response personnel to implement the life-saving treatment strategy."

A national survey commissioned by Safe Kids USA, funded by Johnson & Johnson, confirmed parents and coaches need more youth sports safety information. In fact, just 29 percent of parents surveyed feel coaches have the necessary skills to identify and prevent injuries and just 40 percent feel confident in their own abilities.

According to recent studies in sports injuries, the rate and severity of sports related injuries increases with a child’s age. Children ages 5 – 14 years of age account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospital emergency departments with collision and contact sports associated with higher rates of injury. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported in 2009 an estimated 216,232 children age 14 and under were injured playing football, 88,789 were injured in soccer. For children 14 years and younger playing baseball or softball, there were 115,133 injuries in 2009.

The most common types of sport-related injuries in children are sprains, muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, and heat-related illness. Although very rare, brain injury is the leading cause of sports-related death to children.

Dr. Gerard Gioia, Director of the SCORE Concussion program, for Children’s National Medical Center, has treated children with brain injuries for more than 20 years. He is working to develop similar neurocognitive computerized testing tools that the NFL and NHL mandate for players but for younger children and teenagers, who may have sustained a concussion.

“We know that participation in sports is very important to the child’s overall development. At the same time, the child’s brain is their future and unrecognized concussions in sports can threaten that future,” said Gioia. “We must do everything we can to equip parents, coaches, and our youth to recognize concussions and respond appropriately to them. Youth sports are not equipped in the same way as the professional players, but we can still find effective ways to safeguard our kids.”

Safe Kids of Otsego County encourages parents to understand how to prevent the most common causes of preventable sports injuries in young athletes including overuse injuries, heat-related illness, concussions and injuries caused by pre-existing medical conditions. Safe Kids encourages parents to have consistent communications with their child’s coach in order to take a proactive role in keeping their child safe while playing sports. To receive a Sports & Recreation Safety packet for Athletes, Coaches and Parents, contact Rich McCaffery, richard.mccaffery<mailto:richard.mccaffery> or 607-547-5256.

Pre-Participation Physical Evaluations

Safe Kids USA and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend every child receive an annual pre-participation evaluation (PPE), which will help determine his/her readiness to play sports and may uncover any underlying conditions that could limit participation or increase the risk for injury or a medical emergency. Parents should talk to their child’s doctor and ask them to perform the full pre-participation evaluation, which was recently updated by the AAP.

Dehydration/Health Related Illness
Young athletes need to be encouraged to drink water before, during and after practice, in order to prevent dehydration and the risk of a more serious heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Athletes should start practice/play fully hydrated, and drink water for every 20 minutes of play.

Overuse Injuries

An overuse injury is difficult to diagnose and treat because they are usually subtle and occur over time. Fatigue, burnout or playing while injured can lead to overuse injuries such as repetitive motion injuries as well as acute injuries including sprains (mostly ankle), muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries. Warming up and stretching before play is essential to preventing sports related injuries. This helps athletes avoid injuries such as muscle tears or sprains by stretching and releasing any muscle tension.

Children who do not wear or use protective equipment are at greater risk of sustaining sports-related injuries. Parents can reduce their child’s risk of minor or serious injuries such as concussions by making sure their child wears the appropriate and properly fitted sports equipment during practice and competitive play and knowing the signs and symptoms of a concussion.

About Safe Kids of Otsego County
Safe Kids works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. Its members include [list members]. Safe Kids [Coalition] is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids of Otsego County was founded in 2000 and is led by Bassett Healthcare Network.

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