Racing champ Jeff Gordon's focus on children's health comes at a crucial time. The number of
U.S. children with chronic health conditions has risen dramatically in the past
four decades, according to a study published last June in The Journal
of the American Medical Association. Some of the study's findings:
Of 80 million children in America, about 8% (6.5 million) have chronic
conditions that interfere with regular daily activity, says study author James
M. Perrin, MD, professor of pediatrics...
How can you help your child get ready for a sport or activity?
Schedule a sports physical to make sure that your child has no health problems. If your child has an illness or a problem with his or her lungs, heart, vision, hearing, strength, or movement, the doctor will tell you how your child can manage the problem and still be active.
If you think that your child needs strengthening or conditioning to avoid injury, ask your doctor for exercises or to recommend a physical therapist.
Learn about the common risks of your child's sport or activity. Then work with your child to prepare and protect against injuries.
How can an active child avoid common injuries?
Most sport-related injuries are from impact, overuse, or poor body mechanics.
To reduce your active child's risk of injury, you can:
Always use the right safety gear. Learn about the proper fit of that gear. Replace it as your child grows.
Make sure that your child learns proper form and technique from a class, coach, or athletic trainer. If possible, help your child build skill and strength before the sports season starts.
Teach your child to take pain and tiredness seriously and not ignore or "play through" it.
Avoid high-risk activities
Some activities are so high-risk that child health experts warn strongly against them. These include boxing, trampoline use, and driving or riding on motorized bikes and vehicles.
What safety gear does your child need?
Safety gear helps protect your child. Before your child starts a new activity, get the right safety gear and teach your child how to use it.
Just as important is the example you set for your child. Always use safety gear for your own activities, such as a helmet for bike riding.
Depending on the sport or activity, your child may need some of these items:
Helmets help protect against injury to the skull. Brain damage is still possible even when a helmet is worn. Use a helmet for any activity that can cause a fall or an impact to the neck or head, such as bike riding, football, baseball, ATV riding, skateboarding, skiing, inline skating, or horseback riding.
Shoes help protect feet from injury. Sandals or flip-flops are not safe for bike riding. Some sports require special shoes for support and safety.
Mouth guards help prevent mouth and dental injuries. Use a mouth guard for sports such as basketball, football, wrestling, horseback riding, rugby, martial arts, gymnastics, baseball, ice or field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse.
Eye protection can be prescription or nonprescription. You can use polycarbonate lenses, or try goggles or a face shield.
Padding includes football and hockey pads, shin guards for soccer, and sliding shorts for baseball and softball. For boys, an athletic supporter and cup is often recommended.
Braces include wrist guards for snowboarding and inline skating, ankle braces for volleyball, and knee-savers for baseball and softball catchers.