With many young school athletes working hard this month to prepare for fall sports, it’s a good time to encourage parents and coaches to keep children safe on and off the field and prevent sports injuries, including heat-related illnesses. Nearly 75 percent of U.S. households have at least one child who plays organized sports. Unfortunately, about 3.5 million children receive medical treatment for a sports-related injury each year, and as many as half of these injuries are preventable according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.“With high temperatures and vigorous practice sessions underway for school age children, parents and coaches have an even greater role to play in keeping children safe and injury free,” said Ronda Lusk, coordinator, Safe Kids Wichita Area. “It’s vitally important to set realistic expectations for children about sports and understand how to help them prepare properly, prevent injuries and play safely.”
The summer heat has brought particular attention to the dangers of heat stroke, one of the leading causes of sudden death in sports. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the number of heat-related injuries from 1997 to 2006 increased 133 percent. Youth accounted for the largest proportion of heat-related injuries or 47.6 percent.
“It’s important for people of all ages, but particularly children and adolescents, to acclimatize their body to the heat so that they don’t get overheated so easily,” said Dr. Mark Stovak, medical director for Sports Medicine at Via Christi Hospitals in Wichita. “It generally takes about two weeks of gradually increased exercise time in the elements for the body to adjust.”
A national survey commissioned by Safe Kids Worldwide in April 2012, funded by Johnson & Johnson, confirmed parents and coaches need more youth sports safety information. In fact, when asked in a survey of over 750 coaches, 73 percent of coaches reported that they would like more training in heat illness prevention. Additionally, only 1 percent of young athletes reported having heard about heat illness as a type of sports injury.
Safe Kids offers these important tips for coaches, parents, and league organizers to prevent heat illness and dehydration:
- Don’t wait for kids to tell you they are thirsty. Making regular water breaks (every 15-20 minutes) a habit will help avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- We want our young athletes to drink water at least 30 minutes before play and every 15-20 minutes during play.
- For fluid intake during physical activity, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends:
- 5 oz. for an 88-pound child every 20 minutes
- 9 oz. for a 132-pound adolescent every 20 minutes
- A child’s gulp equals a ½ ounce of fluid so generally, your child should drink about 10 gulps for every 20 minutes of play
- Use urine color as a guide for hydration status:
- Light like lemonade then the child is likely hydrated
- Dark like apple juice then he/she is likely dehydrated
For more information on Safe Kids Wichita Area Coalition’s sports safety clinics or sports injury prevention in general, please call Safe Kids Wichita Area at 316-946-5045 or visit www.safekids.org/sports.