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Couture for Athletes: What to Wear When Playing It Safe

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WebMD Health News

March 6, 2000 (New York) -- The healthy habits that last a lifetime start early -- which is why getting your kids to engage in regular physical activity today will help them grow into strong, healthy adults tomorrow. Though we hear a lot about sports-related injuries in the media, taking certain precautions can ensure that your mini-Allen Iverson, Venus Williams, or Derek Jeter is as safe on the field as off.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), about 6 million high school boys and girls participate in team sports, and 20 million play recreational or competitive sports outside of school. An estimated 3.2 million children ages 5-14 suffer from sports- and recreation-related injuries each year.

With the help of New York City-based sports medicine expert Lewis G. Maharam, MD, the AAP, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), WebMD has put together lists of the safety equipment your child will need for whatever sport he or she chooses.

"Taking the proper precautions and having the right equipment for a particular sport are the best ways to protect your child from injuries during sports," Maharam, a sports medicine specialist in New York City and the president of the New York chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine, tells WebMD.

Before getting into specifics, all children interested in joining a sport must undergo a complete physical exam by a pediatrician to make sure that they are in good health. Once the doctor gives his OK, all future athletes should always warm up before play with an aerobic training, stretching, and strengthening program designed by a coach. "For example, even if you have the best tennis racquet and sneakers," says Maharam, "if you never played before and you haven't done anything to warm up, you will be on the court for all of a minute before you pull a muscle or run out of steam."

Another tip that applies to all sports is to make sure players have enough to drink before, during, and after play to prevent dehydration, Maharam says.

Now, here's the lowdown on what your child will need when he or she decides on a specific sport:

Basketball: Each year, there are more than 41,000 sports-related and recreational eye injuries, most commonly among baseball and basketball players, which is why the AAP recommends that basketball players wear sports goggles with shatterproof polycarbonate lenses. The AAPD recommends mouth guards to protect against broken, lost, or chipped teeth, bruised or cut lips, and jaw injuries.

Softball/baseball: "A batting helmet is essential," Maharam says. "Shin guards at the plate to protect from low pitches and batting gloves to prevent blisters can also help." The AAP recommends a polycarbonate face guard or other certified safe protection attached to the helmet for batting and base running and sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses for fielding. The AAPD recommends mouth guards.

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