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posted: 8/26/2013 5:00 AM

Tips to protect your child from sports injuries

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  • Health officials are emphasizing ways to reduce injuries among student athletes.

    Health officials are emphasizing ways to reduce injuries among student athletes.
    Daily Herald file photo BY MARK BLACK/mblack@daily

By Ashleigh Walters
Scripps Howard News Service

As the back-to-school bell starts to ring around the nation, new numbers have been released that offer insight into the frequency of children's sports-related injuries and what kinds of injuries send children to the hospital.

Safe Kids Worldwide recently released the new research report. It takes a look at data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System.

Every year, 1.35 million children are sent to the emergency room for sports-related injuries. That amounts to once every 25 seconds.

Concussions have become a major topic in recent health news. Many schools and sports now offer baseline concussion testing, as new research is conducted. The research report reveals that 12 percent of emergency room visits are from the 14 most popular sports. That amounts to one concussion-related hospital visit every three minutes.

Younger athletes are at risk as much as high school athletes. Kids 12 to 15 years old make up almost half of the concussion-related trips to the ER.

Of the most popular sports, athletes involved in football, wrestling and cheerleading face the highest rate of concussions. The sport with the highest percent of concussions was hockey.

Knee injuries make up one in 10 sports-related visits to the emergency room. Young female athletes are disproportionately more at risk than boys. The study revealed that tears to the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, are up to eight times more likely to affect girl than boy athletes.

Safe Kids Worldwide recommends four strategies that can make a positive difference in sports-related injuries:

• Get educated and educate others. Clinics and educational information are available in many communities and school districts.

• Teach athletes to prevent injury. Proper hydration, ample sleep, warm-up exercises and stretching can prevent injury. Wearing the appropriate gear every time, and wearing it properly, is essential.

• Encourage athletes to speak up. Explain to children that it they will not let down their teammates if they sit out.

• Support coaching staff and have a conversation with them before the season begins. Coaches must be educated and also confident in decisions. A recent survey found coaches often feel pressured by parents and athletes to keep injured athletes in the game.

Parents and coaches must know the signs and symptoms of a concussion. Any athlete who may have a concussion should immediately be removed from play and sidelined. When in doubt, sit them out, experts say. A second concussion before an athlete has recovered from the first can cause detrimental, lifelong, even fatal, outcomes.

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