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Seven tips to avoid sports-related injuries

Millions of children, ages 5 to 15 years, participate in the fun and excitement of sports activities everyday as their parents happily cheer them on in the stands. However, the fun can soon turn to fear and panic when a child is injured. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 3.5 million sports-related injuries in children under the age of 15 are treated in hospitals, clinics, and emergency rooms each year. Long after the panic and immediate treatment, are there possible problems that could appear later and what can parents and coaches do to protect their kids?

"Contact sports put young athletes at serious risks for severe injuries and most parents don't realize that the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments in children are still growing, making them more susceptible to injury." says Anne Packard Spicer, DC, DACCP, an associate professor at Northwestern Health Sciences University, in Bloomington, Minn. Dr. Packard Spicer offers the following suggestions to help guide young athletes to safety:

?Wear protective gear and make sure it fits properly and is sport-appropriate. "Only use equipment specifically designed for the sport your child is playing. I've seen some kids wear football cleats for soccer and due to the peg underneath the shoe, they end up tripping," says Dr. Packard Spicer.

?Kids should play by the rules. Not playing by the rules results in fouls and penalties, which increases the likelihood of injury.

?Parents and coaches should be aware of the appropriate body mechanics and physiology behind each sport. "It's key for a coach and for parents to understand what body positions and stretching techniques best protect a player," says Dr. Packard Spicer. "A classic example of an incorrect technique that can possibly tear ligaments is a hurdle stretch that has kids stand on one leg and reach their other one off to the side. The correct method is to bend the elevated leg and hold it or tuck it close to the back side of the body."

?Don't play through the pain or with an injury. "It's important to respect the healing process and to avoiding playing when one has an injury," says Dr. Packard Spicer. "Also, know your child and the signs that he or she shows when in pain, and instead of telling him to 'tough it out,' pull him out of the game to prevent an actual injury."

?Kids need chiropractic adjustments. "Kids as early as age seven complain of transient back pain. Children, especially those that play sports, need chiropractic adjustments to ensure spinal stability, muscle balance, to improve biomechanics, and to have optimal nerve functioning," says Dr. Packard Spicer. "Chiropractic adjustments in childhood can help prevent chronic back pain and joint problems in the future.

"Most people think these type of adjustments are only for adults wanting to relieve back pain, but research shows that children and even infants have been safely adjusted for decades to relieve certain conditions including colics, asthma, and refluxes."

?Good nutrition is important for bone building. "Especially for kids, it is important to eliminate the 'junk' food from their diets and to add the necessary fruits and vegetables, calcium, and protein that help build strong bones," Dr. Packard Spicer.

?Warm-up, cool down, and be conscious of your movements. Warm-up and cool down stretches are necessary to prevent muscle spasms and they help promote good body mechanics. "Make sure children don't rush through stretches and are aware of their motions," says Dr. Packard Spicer.