Did you know that playing tennis with a badly strung racquet while wearing worn-out
shoes can increase your risk of injury almost as much as playing football without
shoulder pads? Using the wrong — or not properly fitted — equipment is
a major cause of injuries.
Helmets Are Key
The equipment you wear while participating in sports and other activities is key
to preventing injuries.
Start with helmets: They're important for sports such as football,
hockey, baseball, softball, biking, skateboarding, inline skating, skiing,
— to name just a few.
Always wear a helmet made for the sport you're playing.
When choosing a bike
helmet, look for a sticker that says the helmet meets the safety standard set
by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a federal regulatory agency that
creates safety standards for bike helmets and other safety equipment.
If you use a multi-sport helmet for inline skating and skateboarding,
it is not considered safe for bicycle riding unless it has the CPSC sticker.
Any helmet should fit snugly but comfortably on your head and shouldn't tilt backward
Eye protection also is a must for many sports:
The most protective eye gear is made from a plastic called polycarbonate and has
been tested especially for sports use.
Facemasks or polycarbonate guards or shields that attach to a helmet are worn
in sports such as football, ice
hockey, and softball and baseball when batting.
Goggles are often worn for soccer,
sports, snowboarding, street hockey, and baseball and softball when fielding.
If you wear glasses, you'll probably need prescription polycarbonate goggles —
don't just wear your regular glasses when you're on the court or field.
All eye protection should fit securely and have cushions above your eyebrows and
over your nose.
More Essential Equipment
Mouthguards can protect your mouth, teeth, and tongue:
You should wear a mouthguard if you play a contact sport or other sport where
head injury is a risk, such as football, basketball, hockey, volleyball,
martial arts, boxing, or wrestling.
Mouthguards can be fitted for your mouth by a dentist or purchased at sports stores.
If you wear a retainer, always take it out before you start to exercise, practice,
Wrist, knee, and elbow guards are important gear, too:
If you inline skate, skateboard, or ride a scooter, you should wear guards.
Elbow and wrist guards can prevent arm and wrist fractures, and knee guards can
shield your knees from cuts and breaks.
If you play certain sports, especially contact sports, pads are
All kinds of sports, from hockey to inline
skating, use pads. There are shin, knee, elbow, wrist, chest, shoulder, hip, and
Check with your coach or doctor to find out what kinds of pads you might need
for your sport.
Some guys may also need to wear a protective cup (to protect the
Guys who play hockey, football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and other contact
sports should use a cup.
For noncontact sports that involve running, guys should wear an athletic supporter.
If you're unsure, ask your coach, athletic trainer, or parent if you need a cup
for your sport.
And last but not least, the right footwear can keep you from tripping
You know that sports like football, baseball,
softball, and soccer
require cleats. But you may not realize that sports like skateboarding and biking
need special types of shoes, too. Ask your coach or doctor what shoes are best for
Replace shoes and cleats that have worn out or are no longer supportive.
Not only is the right kind of equipment important, so is the right fit. If you
don't know if your equipment fits properly, check with a coach, gym teacher, athletic
trainer, or parent to make sure you have the right size and that you're wearing it
correctly. Many sporting goods stores can also help you find the right fit.
The bottom line: Wearing the right equipment with the right fit greatly lowers
your risk of getting hurt.
Warm Up to Keep Your Game Up
Don't rush into any sport or exercise without warming up first — muscles
that haven't been properly prepared tend to be injured more easily.
Start out with some light cardiovascular activities, such as easy jogging, jumping
jacks, or brisk walking, just to get your muscles going. Follow your brief warm-up
with some stretches. (Stretching works best after a warm-up because your tissues are
more elastic [flexible] due to the increase in heat and blood flow to the muscles.)
In addition to warm-ups and stretches, practice sessions are also excellent preparation
for most sports or activities. If you belong to a team, attend as many team practices
and games as possible. This will put you in top physical condition and help you and
your teammates work together — and knowing how your teammates play will help
Even if you don't belong to a team, you can use regular workouts and practices
to enhance your performance and lessen the chance of injuries. Remember, if a tool
isn't used, it gets rusty, so keep yourself in top shape with regular practice. For
instance, try doing tennis drills or practicing your serve before starting a set.
Shoot some baskets or play a quick game of one-on-one with a friend. Practice gets
your brain and body to work together while improving your performance.
Although you should practice regularly, don't overdo it. Sudden increases in training
frequency, duration, or intensity might produce better performance at first but can
lead to overuse injuries later. Your doctor or coach can
help you develop a training and conditioning program that's appropriate for your age
and level of development.
Staying Off the Court When You're Hurt
If you've been injured and you try to come back too soon, you run the great risk
of reinjuring yourself — maybe even more seriously than before. Don't let anyone
— including yourself, your parents, your friends, or even your coach —
pressure you into playing before your body is fully healed. Your doctor, coach, or
trainer will give you specific advice on when you should return to your sport or activity.
Taking time to heal is particularly important if you've had a concussion.
Lots of athletes try to come back too quickly after getting a concussion — because
they can't see an injury, they think they're OK to play. But jumping back into the
game too soon puts a player at greater risk for another concussion — as well
as other even more dangerous brain injuries. So always get clearance from your doctor
to play again if you've had a concussion.
Many athletes use pain relievers to avoid pain. If you feel persistent pain, don't
use pain relievers to mask it, though. Taking large amounts of pain relievers —
or, worse yet, taking pain relievers for a long time in order to play — can
be dangerous. Pain is the body's way of signaling it's not happy with what you're
doing. If you have a lot of pain, get treatment so you can resolve what's causing
Be sure to get medical care whenever you have:
moderate to severe pain
pain that interferes with daily activity or sleep
swelling of the injured area
an inability to perform normal activities
pain that prevents you from maintaining proper form
The same advice goes for a cold
or flu virus — don't play if you're sick. You won't be able to concentrate if
your head is stuffed up and your nose is running faster than you are, and your lack
of concentration can put you at risk for injury. You can also spread the cold or flu
to the rest of your teammates. It's better to wait until you feel better, so you can
have a safe season.
The Rules of the Game
Rules and regulations usually exist for a good reason — to keep you and your
teammates in the game and to avoid injuries. Do yourself a favor and learn the rules
thoroughly — and then follow them.
Rules aren't restrictions. They're designed to promote safety so that everyone
can enjoy the game. For example, a late hit in football after the referee's whistle
has blown leads to a pretty big penalty. This rule is important because a player could
be seriously injured if he or she is not expecting a tackle after play has stopped.
Sometimes rules may not be directly related to a sport or activity but need to
be followed anyway. For instance, if you're inline skating, skateboarding, or riding
a bike, pay strict attention to all traffic laws, especially when riding on busy public
Proper techniques also promote safety. This goes for any sport, from motor racing
to baseball. Baseball players know not to spike the opposing player who's covering
the bag, even when sliding hard into second base. And when two tennis
players rush the net, an expertly angled volley is the correct shot — not a
hard smash socked directly at an opponent's face!
Another example of a safe technique happens in weightlifting.
Weightlifters should take a breath between each repetition. Exhale on the pushing
phase of a lift. So if you're doing a bench press, let the bar come down to your chest,
and if you're pushing up, breathe out. Holding your breath can raise your blood pressure,
and if you're pressing a lot of weight this can lead to a blackout or fainting
So when you're sticking to rules, regulations, and proper techniques, remember
that they aren't there to restrict you — they're there to keep you safe and