Back-to-School Parents Earn an A+ in Safety

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Published on August 04, 2010 with No Comments

Parents are beginning to think about getting their children back to school in the weeks ahead, with shopping for supplies and backpacks soon to begin

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers timely tips and statistics to keep students safe this school year.

Healthy Backs:  Bags that are too heavy or are worn incorrectly could injure a child’s bones, muscles and joints. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 12,309 bookbag injuries,in 2008, sending kids to doctors’ offices, hospitals and emergency departments. To minimize injury, the AAOS recommends:

• Purchasing backpacks with different-sized compartments, as well as construction features such as padded shoulder straps and dense material to protect against sharp, protruding objects.

• Organizing the backpack to use all of its compartments. Place the heaviest items closest to the center of the back.

• Not overloading the backpack. A heavy backpack forces the wearer to bend forward.

Once the gear shopping is over, kids will be ready to partake in after-school sports, including cheerleading, football, soccer and gymnastics. The AAOS recommends daily exercise to build strong bones and suggests school sports as one way to get that needed activity.

“Sports can be a great way for young people to get the exercise they need, while also developing social skills and having fun,” Marc Rankin, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and spokesperson for the Academy said.

 “Because childrens’ bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons are still growing, they are more susceptible to injury than adults. Parents and coaches should always be on alert to ensure that kids’ sports involvement does not do more harm than good.”

In 2008, the CPSC reported the following statistics on injuries to children under 18:

• Football is the leading cause of injury, sending 1,024,022 kids to doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and hospitals.

• Soccer is next on the list, with 368,726 injuries for that same age group.

• Cheerleading was the cause of 75,307 injuries.

• And, gymnastics injuries numbered 67,542.

Knowing these risks, AAOS offers back-to-school safety tips:

• Have your child always warm up and stretch before exercising, particularly when the weather is cold. Athletes should warm up with some light exercise for at least three to five minutes, then slowly and gently stretch the muscles to be exercised, holding each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

• Make sure a coach with the appropriate training heads your child’s program.

• It is important for your child to stay active during the summer, so that she or he is prepared to begin participating in fall sports.

• Have kids take frequent water breaks to prevent dehydration and overheating.

• Discourage dangerous tactics of play and risky techniques. Strictly enforce appropriate rules to minimize overuse of growing bones.

• Never push a child beyond the point of safety, physically or emotionally.

• Check to make sure equipment is adequately maintained and used properly. Protective equipment such as padding, headgear, mouth guards and cups must fit properly, and their use must be strictly enforced.

• Learn to recognize early signs of pain and discomfort in children, and teach children to be aware of those signs as well. Let them know they should notify their coach or parent as soon as they experience any pain.

• Require that each child see a physician to undergo a pre-season physical.

Youth sports should always be fun. A “win at all costs” attitude can lead to injuries, because a young athlete striving to meet the unrealistic expectations of others may ignore the warning signs of injury and continue to play with pain. Support from parents and coaches, whether young athletes win or lose, can be their greatest protection.

For more injury prevention information, visit www.orthoinfo.org.

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