02/26/2013 10:11 EST | Updated 03/21/2013 08:26 EDT

How To Avoid Hidden Sports Safety Risks


When it comes to sports safety, everyone is well aware of the danger concussions pose and, for the most part, how to prevent them. But there are many other oft-overlooked safety risks lurking about that just might sideline your young athlete if you’re not vigilant.

The key to staying safe and having fun is being aware of potential pitfalls. Two of the most commonly overlooked sports-related snafus are overuse injuries and temperature-related troubles, such as heatstroke and frostbite. According to STOP (Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention) Sports Injuries, overuse injuries often manifest themselves as conditions such as tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder and shin splints, which could all cause your aspiring sports star to miss out on fun.

That said, these types of injuries are preventable. STOP Sports Injuries, which was founded by the American Orthopaedic Society of Sports Medicine, has a wealth of information online about how to avoid the most common sports-related injuries, including a breakdown by specific sports. We’ve compiled a list of some of their most helpful tips so you can avoid frequently overlooked injuries for your young sports star.

Frequently Overlooked Sports Safety Risks. Slideshow text follows for mobile readers.

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1. Always warm up and cool down properly. Make sure muscles are warm and limber before the game or race starts to prevent injuries like sprains, strains and overuse. STOP recommends doing some jumping jacks or running in place before diving into the game.

2. Pay attention to form. Adhering to proper form and technique can go a long ways towards preventing overuse injuries. Make sure your child double-checks with their coach or trainer about their form to see if it can be improved upon.

3. Keep your kids active even during the off-season with fun activities that maintain their core strength. (Check out OT Mom’s suggestions for fun core-strengthening moves, such as “tightrope walkers” and “crab walks.”) STOP points out that injury rates are higher among athletes who haven’t maintained their physical fitness levels, and that core stability can help minimize overuse injuries.

4. Mix it up. Rather than playing basketball the entire year, encourage your child to sign up for different sports for at least one season of the year. This may be a tough pill for an aspiring b-ball star to swallow, but sitting out one or two seasons of her favourite sport a year is nothing compared to being sidelined for life. This is particularly important for baseball pitchers, who are susceptible to shoulder and elbow overuse injuries, and swimmers, who are at risk for developing swimmer’s shoulder.

5. Stay hydrated. This goes for everyone, but is of particularly note for those playing outdoors on hot days. Keep drinking water consistently. After all, by the time you feel thirsty, that means you’re already dehydrated.

6. Never ‘play through pain.’ As STOP says, ‘no pain, no gain’ can be a dangerous motto when it comes to overuse prevention. Pain is likely your body’s way of telling you to stop. If the pain doesn’t go away, see a doctor.

7. Avoid playing in extreme weather conditions to prevent aggravations like heatstroke and frostbite. STOP notes that youth have a lower tolerance for weather extremes than adults do. That means it’s wise to sit out the game if temperatures fall below freezing levels, or soar above 30 degrees Celsius.

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