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Safety Equipment

Safety GlassesParticipation in sports can give just about everyone - children as well as adults - an enjoyable way to increase their levels of fitness and coordination. But playing sports can also lead to injury. (Read about "Avoiding Sports Injury") The good news is that the risk of injury can be reduced. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine estimates that up to half of all sports injuries sustained by children and teens can be prevented. One place to start is with the right safety equipment.

Sport specific equipment

Every sport has its own appropriate safety gear; for example knee pads and wrist guards for in-line skating, helmets for biking, etc. Whenever you purchase sports equipment, make sure you also have the appropriate safety gear.

For example, bike helmets are a must, especially for children. In fact, in many places children are required by law to wear a helmet. It's also a good idea for adults. The American Medical Association says many of the best helmets meet the safety standards of the Snell Memorial Foundation. The Snell label can be found on the outer package. Bike helmets manufactured or imported for sale in the United States should also meet standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSC's standards provide minimum requirements for safety, providing a standardized way to ensure the quality of a bike helmet and to make sure that helmets intended for children up to age five cover more of the head. (Read about "Head Injury")

If you or your child is involved in organized sports such as hockey or baseball, ask your doctor or the team coach about helmets, mouth guards and/or masks. Don't forget eye safety. (Read about "The Eye") The American Academy of Ophthalmology says contact lenses and regular prescription eyeglasses offer no protection to the eye during sports play, and recommends polycarbonate prescription lenses for sports participants, especially those in baseball and racquet sports.

Proper fit

The right fit is also essential. When purchasing safety equipment, you can follow the manufacturer's specifications for size. The right fit should be neither too loose nor too tight, but rather comfortably snug. Some types of equipment come with padding that can be used to adjust the fit; however, avoid purchasing items that are too oversized on the theory that a child will "grow" into them. Items such as a bike helmet that's too large won't offer enough protection during a fall.

Maintenance

Keeping safety equipment in good shape is also essential. You can follow the manufacturer's guidelines for maintenance. Inspect safety equipment regularly. Check that all straps and buckles are in top condition. Look for any dents or cracks that can make the safety gear less effective. The cost of buying and replacing safety gear when needed can be a small price to pay compared to their value in protecting the health of you and your family.

Biking

Children love to ride bikes. But they need to play it safe. That means wearing bike helmets, and following the rules of the road. (Read about "Bike Safety")

Skateboarding

Skateboarding is growing in popularity. But as with any activity that involves fast movement, it can lead to injuries. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) says that skateboarding injuries cause about 50,000 visits to emergency departments and 1500 children and adolescents to be hospitalized each year.

AAOS has these suggestions:

Skating

Roller skates and inline skates are very popular with adults and children, but as with any sport, precautions should be followed. The National Safety Council has these suggestions:

Shoes that have wheels are becoming more popular with children. The same safety rules apply. However, parents should use extreme caution about when and where they allow their children to use these shoes. Many schools have banned the wearing of shoes with wheels.

Helmets

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, wearing the right helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Basically, a helmet consists of a layer of foam, held together by an outer shell. The foam will absorb the impact of a fall. Make sure you try the helmet on for size before purchasing. It should fit securely. It should also have a strong strap and buckle, since the strap has to hold the helmet onto your head if you do fall and hit the ground. For children's helmets, adjustable inner pads can be used to ensure a snug fit that can be adjusted as the child grows.

If you fall and are taken to the hospital, bring the helmet with you. The emergency personnel will want to look at the helmet for any scraps or dents to help them examine your head and look for any hidden potential injuries. In addition, if you ever should fall and hit the helmet, replace it at once. Any impact can crush the protective foam. Even if it doesn't look damaged, it will still be less able to absorb future impacts. You should also replace a helmet if straps or buckles are worn. It is also a good idea to replace a helmet on a regular basis because of wear and tear to the protective foam. If a helmet is damaged, either during an actual crash or in some other way, it should be replaced immediately.

Eye protection

Ask your doctor or eye care specialist about protective shields or goggles, in order to reduce your risk of eye injury. (Read about "Eye Injury") You might even consider using goggles during non-sports-related outside activities, such as gardening. If you use glasses to correct vision, the American Academy of Ophthalmology says contact lenses and regular prescription eyeglasses offer no protection to the eye during sports play. Because of this, it recommends using special polycarbonate prescription lenses for sports participants, especially baseball and racquet sports.

All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.

© Concept Communications Media Group LLC

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By printing and/or reading this article, you agree that you accept all terms and conditions of use, as specified online.