by: Michael Kabel


          In the wintertime it's probably football or gymnastics, then come spring it's baseball, soccer, tennis, or volleyball. Kids love sports - they offer the chance to get as much outdoor activity as they like.

            They're also a potential minefield of injuries, including sprains, pinched muscles, broken bones, and any number of collision accidents. For as much fun as sports are for kids, they can become an equally strong source of anxiety for parents.

            The truth is, children are sometimes far more agile and resilient than parents believe or some experts allege. Getting out and competing with other children, either on teams or by themselves, gives them social skills and builds their self-confidence, at the same time it works out their growing bodies.

            Presented below are some safety and health tips that are good year-round.


Get Them In Training First

            Obviously, pre-training is an important part of doing well at any athletic sport. But pre-training should be approached with the same care and deliberation as the actual training itself. Composing a regimen of calisthenics and cardiovascular training will help children fine-tune their bodies and get them ready to excel at the sport of their choice.

            Probably the most important aspect of training and pre-training, even more than discipline, is consistency. Muscles and stamina build through repetition, and the human body has an amazingly accurate internal "calendar." Building a routine will assist the muscles and body into preparing itself with maximum efficiency.


Food & Water

            Growing and training bodies need lots of fuel, so it's important to make sure your child athletes eat and drink right - and that they eat the right kinds of foods. Training athletes need lots of carbohydrates that can translate to energy, and plenty of protein for building muscle mass.

            A lot has been made about maintaining hydration in recent years, with a new attention put to making sure athletes get enough water. Hydration is important, but only to the extent that the body's requirements are met. The needs of you child are determined by body weight and age level.  As a rule of thumb, for training in warm weather the body needs as much as it releases in sweat, generally one to 1.5 liters an hour (about one cup every 15 to 20 minutes.) Over hydrating can result in stomach cramps and general feelings of queasiness, however, so it's important to treat each child as an individual. Sports drinks are also recommended, provided they restore electrolytes to the body and do not contain an abundance of sugar.


Dealing With Emergencies

            Sprained or stretched muscles, even broken bones are the down side of competition at any age. While children might look back on them one day (or even immediately) as badges of honor or signs of their dedication, parents see them as something else entirely.

            Any athletic team should have a comprehensive emergency plan in place at all times, both for practices and for games, and a fully stocked first aid kit immediately at hand. Many common injuries can be avoided simply by making sure the child has adequate padding and uniforms that are the correct size. The playing field should be safe and level, as well, (literally as well as metaphorically), with no gaping holes, dents, or cracks that could trip a child up.