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Sport Safety

Athletes should maintain a good fitness level during the season and off-season. Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and sport-specific conditioning. 

There is growing evidence that preseason conditioning and balance training may reduce the risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

Stretching and improving flexibility will help athletes excel in their sport and avoid injury. Proper warm-up and cool-down exercises should be incorporated into practice and competition. 

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Athletes should learn and practice safe techniques for performing the skills that are integral to their sport. Athletes should work with coaches and athletic trainers on achieving proper technique, especially for more high-risk activities such as tackling, heading, sliding.
Strength training: coach-to-student ratio of 1:10 or less and proper certification of the instructor, not recommended less than age 7-8 depending on development

– Safety gear should fit properly and be well maintained.
– Helmets approved for your specific sport
– Mouth guards prevent dental injuries
– Athletic supporters and cups for boys
– Protective eyewear: Glasses or goggles should be made with polycarbonate or a similar material. The material should conform to the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials.
– Spotters should be available at all times for gymnastics and cheerleading
– Broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater for outdoor sports

Do not tolerate abusive coaching. Great coaches have proper certifications, act as role models, encourage children through positive motivational techniques, build up self-esteem, and encourage sportsmanship. 

Athletes interested in losing or gaining weight, or those in weight-classified sports (such as wrestling) should discuss strategies for healthy weight loss or weight gain with their doctor. 

Young children participating in light activities lasting 1 hour or less may not need to snack before and after exercise. Rather, help these children focus on good nutrition every day. Older, more active kids may benefit from the following:

Before exercise: Around 3-4 hours before exercise, an athlete should eat mostly carbohydrates with a moderate amount of protein. This small meal should be low in fiber and fat, as these can cause an upset stomach. A 70-pound child should drink around 8-10 ounces of water around 2-3 hours prior to exercise while a teenager or adult should have 12-20 ounces of water. Drinking an additional 6-8 ounces directly before exercise will be helpful.

During exercise: Encourage your child to have a small amount of fluid (3-4 ounces) every 15 minutes. For activities less than an hour, water is sufficient. For activities lasting longer than 1-2 hours, or in very hot environments, sports drinks can help replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes. Sports drinks are very different from energy drinks which have caffeine and excess sugar. Energy drinks are not recommended.

After exercise: Within 30-60 minutes after exercise, it’s important to replenish any fluids lost and to refuel with an appropriate source of energy. Focusing on a snack that is rich in carbohydrates and proteins will help rebuild and restore muscles. Chocolate milk is an excellent example of a recovery drink.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Studies looking at the purity of supplements find high rates of contamination with possibly harmful substances. Also, many products do not contain the ingredients listed on the label.

Young athletes sometimes take protein supplements or nucleic acid supplements(creatine) to help their sports performance. However, studies have not shown these supplements help improve sports performance in younger athletes.  

During puberty athletes grow and become stronger and their performance often improves very quickly. Creatine does not appear to offer any additional benefit in this age group. Most young athletes who eat a healthy, well-balanced diet do not need and would not benefit from protein supplements. However, vegetarians may be at risk of not eating enough protein and may benefit from meal planning with a registered dietitian.

Athletes sometimes use anabolic steroids to enhance muscle strength and size. Anabolic steroids stop growth in children and teens who are still gaining height. They may also cause long-term problems with the heart, skin, and other organs that can be severe and may be irreversible.