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Safe Sports: Keeping kids in the game

By | Posted - Apr. 20, 2011 at 6:24 p.m.

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We want to hear from you. We have activated our beta comment board system for this article while we are testing it. Please comment on the story and share your thoughts.SALT LAKE CITY — The start of spring means the start of the season for thousands of young athletes across the state. In addition to winning, safety experts hope parents will set another goal: to keep those kids on the field, and out of the hospital.

Before you ignore these statistics, really stop to consider last year, on average, seven kids went to the emergency room with sports-related injuries each day. In addition, 429 Utahns of all ages suffered from a concussion as a result of organized or recreational sports activities in 2008.

So, while the reminder to 'play safe' may seem like an obvious one — the numbers show we don't always take the caution we should.

Sports Safety Clinics
Clinics will be held:
  • Wednesday, April 20 — Concussion prevention, recognition, and response workshop from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Diamond Fork Jr. High School (50 North 900 East, Spanish Fork).
  • Wednesday, April 20 — Swim team safety clinic from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Canyon View Orthopedics (1300 North 500 East, Logan).
  • Thursday, April 21 — Providence baseball coaches clinic from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Providence City Offices building (15 South Main, Providence).
  • Friday, April 29 — Skateboard safety from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Kearns Skateboard Park (5662 Cougar Lane, Kearns).
  • Saturday, May 7 — Spring baseball opening social from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Zollinger Park (61 North 200 West, Providence).
  • Friday and Saturday, May 27-28 — Spring soccer tournament at Providence City Soccer Complex (61 North 200 West, Providence).

"Coaches and parents should learn more than just the rules and skills required to win," said Christi Fisher, director of Safe Kids Utah. "They play a critical role in keeping young athletes injury-free so they can stay in the game. Sports aren't much fun if you are injured and unable to play."

Safety for children participating in sports activities should focus on four key areas:

  1. The importance of a pre-participation evaluation for a child with his/her physician prior to play. These exams can detect any underlying health problems a child may have and help to avoid a potential medical emergency.
  2. Overuse injuries. These injuries can include tennis elbow, swimmer's shoulder, little league elbow and stress fractures. Proper warmup and stretching before play can help prevent overuse injuries.
  3. Dehydration and heat-related illness. Children should drink something (especially water) 30 minutes before physical activity begins, have mandatory fluid breaks every 15-20 minutes throughout the activity, and drink fluids after physical activity to prevent dehydration. Dehydration often occurs before any symptoms appear. Sports drinks should be reserved for activities lasting an hour or more.
  4. Concussions. A concussion occurs when a bump, blow, or jolt to the head changes the way the brain normally works. All concussions are serious and most occur without the loss of consciousness. If you suspect a child has a concussion, immediately remove the child from play until a health care professional says they are symptom-free and gives the OK to return to play.

Utah is one of 15 states that have enacted youth sports concussion-related laws. HB204, Protection of Athletes with Head Injuries, requires amateur sports organizations to adopt and enforce a concussion and head injury policy.

The law requires the removal of a child from a sporting event when the child is suspected of having a concussion until that child receives written medical clearance from a qualified health care provider.

"We want kids to enjoy the benefits of playing sports — learning the value of teamwork, making friends, and creating healthy habits — but we also want to make sure they are safe doing so," Fisher said.

Free sports safety clinics for coaches and parents will be held by Safe Kids Coalitions and local health departments. For dates, locations and times, see the box above.


Story written by Brooke Walker with contributions from Mary Richards.

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