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Millions of American kids enjoy taking part in outdoor sports such as baseball, football and soccer. These sports can help children not only stay in shape physically, but can be an important part of a child's education. While most organized sports are healthy, relatively safe activities, it is important to remember that each of these sports comes with some degree of risk of injury.

Every year, according to the National Safe Kids Campaign, more than 700,000 children under age 15 are taken to hospital emergency rooms for treatment of sports related injuries. In fact, children age 11-15 account for 55 percent of all sports related injuries that require hospitalization.

The good news is that estimates show that over half of these injuries are preventable. To help eliminate some of these preventable injuries, Consumer Prodigy offers safety tips for outdoor sports.

While each sport is different and requires different safety measures, there are some precautions that can applied to most outdoor sports. It is essential that before participating in a sport, you and your children have a good understanding of the rules and fundamentals of the activity. Knowing and abiding by the rules of the game is one of the best ways to stay safe and have fun. Kurt Fielding, Certified Athletic Trainer with the Green Bay Packers professional football team believes that "following the rules of the game not only keeps NFL players safe, it can help even occasional athletes avoid injuries."

It is also vital that you get in shape to play. Dr. David Janda of the Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine states that "proper training and conditioning is the first step in preventing injuries."

After you are prepared to take part in a sport and it is time to play, be sure to take 5-10 minutes to do a warm up and stretch -- do neck rotations, trunk twists, arm circles, jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, and stretches for the back, hips, quadriceps, hamstring and calf muscles. If it is hot, be sure to drink plenty of liquids and after the activity do a "cool down" consisting of walking and stretching to prevent cramping and sore muscles.

It is also important to remember that between one-half and two-thirds of all sports related injuries occur while playing unorganized sports, and an estimated 60 percent of injuries in organized sports occur in practice rather than during games. Injuries can occur anytime you play a sport and it is important to be prepared when they do occur.

Besides these general tips, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of injuries with each outdoor sport. On the back of this page are some tips developed by sports medicine clinics, insurance companies, and coaches that will help keep you and your family safer.

Though following these tips will not eliminate all risk of injuries from outdoor sports, they can help make the activities more enjoyable for you and your family.


Outdoor Sports Safety Tips

-learn the fundamentals of the sport
-always wear a snug-fitting helmet when at bat
-before swinging a bat, be sure you are in a safe place with no one near you
-be sure that the person you are throwing the ball to is ready to catch it
-learn how to properly dodge the ball -- step away from the plate and turn your back to wild pitches, throws, or uncatchable hits

-always wear a helmet
-learn and use hand signals
-never hold packages while biking
-be sure your bike is the right size for you -- you should be able to balance your bike with the tips of your toes while you sit on the seat
-obey all traffic laws
-ride in single file
-avoid riding at night

-when tackling, never lead with your helmet
-be sure to wear proper equipment and check to be sure it is not damaged
-play with other people of approximately your same size and ability level

-wearing wrist guards, knee pads, and elbow pads can help prevent many cuts, scrapes, bruises and fractures
-always wear a helmet
-don't skate in the street
-skate with others
-make sure the brakes are in good working order

-goals should be firmly fastened to the ground
-wear shin guards
-shoe laces should be tied securely and bow should be tucked into shoe tops
-remove nets when goals are not in use and disassemble goals for seasonal storage

-if you have a pool, it is a good idea to enroll your children in swimming classes
-never swim alone
-don't run on the slippery deck around the pool
- only dive in the presence of a lifeguard in a pool designed for diving
-fence in your pool and use a self-closing gate for the entrance
-never swim when tired or under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medications
-don't rely on flotation devices to ensure the safety of your children; be sure to closely supervise your children


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