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Let the Games Begin! Preventing Sports Injuries in Young Athletes

Injuries are more likely to happen when you're tired, so know your body's limits and be sure to get plenty of rest. Christina Walker, M.D., a Sports Medicine specialist

"Pay attention to pain," says Dr. Walker. "Anything persistent or that comes after an injury should be looked at by your doctor. Remember that some soreness can be expected when beginning any new sport."

Players should wear appropriate protective equipment - especially for the neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee and shin - as well as helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups and eyewear.

"Knee injuries, specifically those involving the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), are more common in females," notes Dr. Walker.

To avoid ACL injuries, train using strength and flexibility exercises year-round to enhance balance and coordination. Strengthen your hamstrings and quadriceps with regular exercise and practice proper landing techniques from jumping. Learn to do cutting maneuvers with a slight bend at the knee and hip.

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in young athletes. Be sure to warm up your muscles with good stretching techniques. Take 10 minutes before any exercise to warm up and stretch the muscles you will be using during an activity.

"Hydration is a key to healthy families," says Dr. Walker. "Dehydration is commonly overlooked, but it is a common problem during Houston's hot and humid months."

No matter what activity you and your kids enjoy most, be sure to keep these items handy:

  • Water
  • Sports drinks (for electrolyte replenishment)
  • Sun block with an SPF 30
  • Safety equipment (elbow, knee and shin guards)