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Spring into action—safely! How to keep sports injuries at bay

Now that summer is here, there’s nothing you’ll want to do more than play outside. Just make sure you do it safely. Whether you and your family are hiking, biking, skating, shooting hoops or tossing or kicking the ball around, take these precautions to guard against injuries.

Before you start. Make sure all of you give your muscles a good stretch before jumping into action. Do neck rotations, touch your toes, reach for the sky. (If your kids are young, disguise the warm-up as a game of Simon Says.) Stretching makes muscles less prone to tears or strains. Never bounce when you stretch and hold each position for at least 15 seconds.

Gear up! Just as you make sure they have their seat belts on before you pull out of the driveway, provide your kids with the proper protective gear before they hit the field or the court. Don’t forget to protect yourself as well!

Biking helmets prevent as many as 85 percent of head injuries. They also should be used when in-line skating and playing football. For the best protection:

  • Helmets should fit snugly and flat on the head.
  • The front edge of the helmet should rest less than an inch above the eyebrows.
  • Chin straps should be tight and always fastened.

When appropriate, all athletes should wear wrist, elbow and knee pads and mouth and shin guards. Footwear should be in good condition and laced correctly. Do not use gear hand-me-downs.

If you or your child wears glasses or contact lenses, talk to your eye doctor about sports-friendly eyewear.

Don’t forget to protect your skin against the elements. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and reapply often.

Game time. No matter the chosen activity, make sure everyone is familiar with the rules. Young kids should be supervised to prevent roughhousing or unfair playing. When you or a family member is participating in an individual activity, such as biking or skating, review the “law” of the land: Stay on the right side of the road. Make appropriate signals. Follow traffic signals. Designate a meeting area in case you lose sight of each other.

Be familiar with the playing area. Is the pavement level and well lighted? Is the field smooth and clear? Make sure your child knows what’s safe play and what’s off limits.

On hot days, adults and children should drink at least two glasses of water before playing and then keep well hydrated throughout the activity.

Rest and recovery. Great workout, huh? Before you go home, cool down to prevent sore muscles. At home, a warm bath will help relax muscles. If you or your children complain of pain, rest the sore muscle for a few days until it has recovered. If discomfort persists, seek medical attention. Never let someone “play through the pain.”