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Continued: BACK TO SCHOOL: Sports safety

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  • Last update: August 13, 2013 - 9:17 AM

Signs and symptoms: Children who are getting overheated might look flushed or feel lightheaded. Heat illness can also cause dry mouth, fatigue, a decrease in performance level or attention span and excessive sweatiness, Rice said. When humidity is high, sweat can't evaporate. That prevents the body from cooling.

Sweating is "really the best method of cooling we have," Rice said. "If you grab a towel and keep wiping yourself off, you've lost a chance to cool off. It's not the production of sweat but evaporation of sweat that cools you."

Treatment: Get the child to the shade as soon as possible, Rice said. Coaches should be prepared to cool someone down rapidly if necessary, including having cold, wet towels and washcloths and ice packs to apply to the child's neck, armpits and groin.

Start the cooling process immediately, Rice said, even if you are calling 911. Don't wait for medical help to arrive.

Prevention: Drink plenty of water before and stay hydrated during physical activity. The AAP recommends that children ages 9 to 12 drink three to eight ounces of water every 20 minutes. Adolescents should drink 34 to 50 ounces of water an hour while they are exercising in the heat. Encourage children to drink water before and after practices or games.

Other ways to prevent heat illness include gradually building up workouts so the child can get used to exercising in warm weather. Adjust the practice schedule, activities and expectations to match the weather conditions, Rice said, and allow at least two hours of rest between practice sessions.

ORTHOPEDIC INJURIES

Causes: Sprains, strains, growth-plate fractures (damage to areas of cartilage near the ends of developing bones), tendinitis and other injuries to bones, ligaments and joints can be caused by falls, but also by overtraining in one sport, not stretching properly and not giving the body time to rest between workouts.

"Kids are getting more overspecialized at an earlier age," said Laurel Blakemore, head of orthopedics at Children's National Medical Center. She added: "Specializing in one sport at too young an age can lead to injuries, along with burnout."

Jon Almquist, who recently retired as the athletic training program coordinator for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, agreed.

"Let the kid play sports to have fun playing sports instead of to boost the parent's ego," Almquist said. "Let them play different sports. Very few kids play sports to the point where they're going to be professional athletes."

Signs and symptoms: Swelling, limping, bruising and pain that is aggravated by activity are all possible signs of an injury. So is the inability to put weight on your knee or ankle.

Treatment: Most orthopedic injuries are treated successfully with rest, ice, compression, elevation, anti-inflammatory medication or physical therapy, Blakemore said. The child might have to wear a brace, boot or cast while the injury heals. Occasionally with a fracture or torn ligament, surgery is necessary.

Prevention: Proper training, including stretching, varying workouts and starting slow at the beginning of the season, is key to preventing many orthopedic injuries, Blakemore said.

Kayley Bogemann, 14, a sophomore at Centreville High School in Virginia, is working harder at prevention after a series of orthopedic injuries. Kayley plays club soccer and is on the cross-country and track teams at her school. She fell during a soccer game in 2011 and had reconstructive surgery on her ankle.

She also battled tendinitis and shin splints last year when she was going from running at cross-country practice to soccer, where she would run another few miles during conditioning exercises. Her mother, Beth Bogemann, said Kayley is trying to remember to stretch properly and to vary her workouts. When the rest of her team is running at soccer practice this fall, she will do footwork drills instead. And during cross-country season, her coach has her work out on an exercise bike one day a week instead of running, to give her knees a break.

"I've learned to be more careful with overworking my body," Kayley said.

For more information on sports injuiry clinics sponsored by Safe Kids Worldwide, go to safekids.org

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