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TYLER BLOCK AND GRADY LARSON play catch in the DL community center pool. (Vaughn Johnson/Record)

Health and Wellness series: Avoid bad habits in teenage years

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Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during adolescence has its benefits -- and nowadays it's easier to do, with plenty of fitness and health education available.

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"If you start out on a good foot, that's gonna carry with you in your adult life," said Brenda Muckenhirn, lead physical therapist at Sanford Clinic in Detroit Lakes.

The clinic contracts with the Detroit Lakes School District in the sports medicine area, helping to treat injuries on the field to eliminate long-term problems.

"The biggest thing is you get that immediate care to the acute injury," Muckenhirn said.

The contract allows the school to have an athletic trainer on hand for all home games and some away games during the football season.

Muckenhirn said if a student athlete is injured, he or she gets checked out right away on the field.

Depending on their injury, they're either referred back to their primary care doctors, or Sanford continues to work with them until they recover fully.

"You really kind of have that liaison to get them in quicker," she added.

In addition to sports, teens have other options to stay active by participating in the Speed and Strength program, where they can work on weight training, flexibility and endurance during the summer.

"The better trained they are, the less risk for injury," Muckenhirn said.

Most teens who visit the doctor's office are there for sports physicals, so physicians usually try to take that opportunity to speak with them about their habits.

Dr. Neil Jonason, a family practice physician at Essentia Health St. Mary's, said the good old safe sex advice is now accompanied by the safe driving advice.

In addition to encouraging teenagers to abstain from drugs and alcohol, Jonason said it's important that teens understand the risks that come with texting while driving and not wearing seatbelts.

"Teenagers are by and large pretty healthy, and when they have problems it tends to be focused on those issues," Jonason said.

The teen years aren't typically the time for vaccinations, but now young women, ages 9 to 26, are encouraged to get the Gardasil vaccination to prevent human papilloma virus (HPV) and cervical cancer.

"They can be carriers and not even know they have it," said Taressa Strand, lead registered nurse at Sanford Clinic.

She added that boys are now able to get the Gardasil vaccination starting at age 9. It's a series of three shots taken over a six-month period.

The vaccination meningococcal is also recommended at the earliest opportunity.

Jonason said the vaccine used to be given to college students, but now high school age kids are encouraged to get it for meningitis prevention.

Teenagers don't like to be asked too many questions about their healthy or unhealthy habits, but Jonason said gently reminding them of the risks associated with bad habits, produces positive results.

"You have to be kind of gentle with high schoolers, they don't like people harping on them like their parents do," he said.

"Mention things gently and get them to talk a little bit."

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