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Dec 13, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- TIPS FOR INJURY-FREE WINTER SPORTS

Conditioning can keep winter sports enthusiasts out of the emergency room, says a University of California, San Diego, sports medicine expert. Dr. Robert Pedowitz advises winter athletes to work on their flexibility, strength and cardiovascular fitness before partaking of their sport. Getting an instructor and selecting the right hill for one's skiing or snowboarding ability also may help prevent injuries, he says. Pedowitz advises skiers to undergo a quadriceps conditioning program for at least several weeks and select the right equipment because properly fitting skis, boots and bindings can help prevent some of the most severe injuries, such as tibia fractures. He says snowboarders, prone to wrist and head injuries, should wear protective equipment, including helmets and wrist guards.


A U.S. veterinarian cautions holiday staples such as chocolate present potentially deadly hazards for pets. Dennis Blodgett of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine says the sweet confection contains a caffeine-like substance that is dangerous for dogs. Two squares of baking chocolate or just over a pound of milk chocolate can kill a 20-pound dog, he says. Ingesting mistletoe can cause symptoms ranging from an upset stomach to death, depending upon the amount consumed and the size of the animal. Other dangerous plants include Holly berries and Jerusalem cherries. Poinsettias usually produce only mild symptoms. Pets also should be kept away from the water in Christmas-tree stands and antifreeze, which can cause kidney damage and death if ingested, Blodgett warns.


A St. Louis University School of Medicine specialist advises holiday celebrants to keep expectations low to avoid disappointments. Dr. Joan Lang, chair of psychiatry, says with crowded roads and airports, travel can create stress even before the party begins. Add to that family tensions, and you've got the recipe for trouble, she says. For an enjoyable holiday, she advises: be kind to yourself; forgive the frailties of others; and, look at the holidays more realistically. If you don't enjoy sleeping on a pullout couch at your sister-in-law's house, book a hotel room, she advises. Take a few moments to play a board game with your 5-year-old nephew or engage a shy relative in conversation, she says. Get everyone off the couch for an after-dinner walk to look at Christmas lights, Lang recommends. "Focus on the positives from last year and figure out what you can do to make things better this year," she says.


When your freshman comes home for Christmas break, expect changes and be willing to accommodate them, advises a Missouri psychiatrist. "Some parents envision their college children's homecoming as a chance to have some quality family time...," says Randall Flanery of St. Louis University School of Medicine. "When the reality comes, they bash heads." He advises parents to: check assumptions at the gate and know your child may want to see friends while at home; make clear what you expect, such as your child's presence at a family dinner; pick your battles; realize your child may have acquired some unpleasant habits, such as smoking or drinking, and don't be shocked but do discuss it; and, do something symbolic to let your child know you see he or she is growing up, such as inviting a date to a family gathering.

(Editors: For more information about SPORTS, contact Jeffree Itrich at (619) 543-6163. For PETS, Jeffrey Douglas at 540-231-7911or For EXPECTATIONS, Nancy Solomon at (314) 977-8017. For FRESHMAN, Nancy Solomon at (314) 977-8017)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.


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