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Keeping Kids Safe in Sports

Play It Safe

'Play it Safe!' continued...

This campaign recommends encouraging children to:

  • Be in proper physical condition before they play a sport. (A preparticipation physical, especially for older children, is important, says Purvis, to screen for undiagnosed heart ailments).
  • Know and follow the rules of the sport.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear -- such as shin guards for soccer, a hard-shell helmet when facing a baseball pitcher, a helmet and body padding for ice hockey, and properly fitting shoes whatever the sport.
  • Know how to use athletic equipment -- for instance, how to adjust the bindings on snow skis.
  • Always warm up before playing.
  • Avoid playing when tired or in pain.


High School Sports

Younger kids are more likely to get hurt in falls (off bikes, playground equipment, and scooters, for example), while older kids are more apt to get hurt in collisions as they move into high-contact sports. Those high school athletic injuries should get more attention, said Joseph A. Bosco III, MD, at the 69th Annual Meeting of the AAOS. Professional and college sports offer athletes sophisticated medical care, he says, but high school athletes don't get the same attention.

"More than 1 million American children participate in high school sports annually," says Bosco, who practices in New York City and works with a number of high school teams.

The bone structure of many teenagers has not fully matured, Bosco explains. This makes them more vulnerable to certain types of injuries and conditions than older athletes are. Areas of growing tissue near the end of children's long bones -- known as growth plates -- for example, get injured more easily than tendons and ligaments. These growth plates mature by the end of adolescence, but until then, what might be a sprain in an adult could be a serious injury in a high school player, says Bosco. Contact sports such as football and basketball, and overdoing it in sports such as gymnastics and baseball, can result in growth plate injuries.

High school athletes may also suffer from osteochondritis -- an inflammation of the cartilage and underlying bone -- and spondylolisthesis -- a condition in which a vertebra slips forward on one beneath it.

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