(NewsUSA) - As your child's sports season gets underway, it's time to think about how to avoid sports-related injuries. Even with the strictest of safety precautions, injuries due to bumps, falls and overexertion are common occurrences for young athletes, especially those participating in sports such as football, soccer, field hockey and cross country.
Here are some tips from Brooke de Lench, author of "Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports" and editor of www.MomsTeam.com, to keep your athletic child safe both on and off the field:
* Make sure your child follows an appropriate conditioning program. Injuries occur most often at the beginning of the season when kids are most likely out of shape. Before the start of the season, have your child follow a conditioning program designed for his or her sport. Proper conditioning, especially building hamstrings and inner quadriceps muscles, have been shown to prevent injuries in the knee area and non-contact injuries of the anterior cruciate ligament.
* Providing the right safety equipment, such as mouth guards, safety goggles, helmets, and elbow and knee pads, can help avoid serious injuries. Applying SPF 15 or higher sunscreen can decrease sun exposure risks and must be applied before outdoor sports even under clothes, which do not provide enough protection.
* Discourage children from hiding their injuries and keep a well-stocked first-aid kit handy for on-the-spot treatment of injuries. Make sure your kit includes medicines for not only cuts and scrapes, but also Boiron's odorless Arnicare Gel for pain and swelling (www.arnicare.com). It offers natural and safe relief for muscle aches, stiffness and bruising that may occur with minor injuries, trauma and overexertion. The homeopathic gel does not contain methyl salicylate or camphor, common ingredients in many sports creams that can be toxic in large doses. The active ingredient is Arnica montana, a perennial plant found in the Northwestern parts of the United States and Central Europe. Arnicare Gel has no known drug interactions or reported side effects, so it's safe for the whole family to use.
* Set limits on practice and playtime as nearly half of all injuries suffered by children are due to overuse. Consider allowing a child to take three months off a year and limiting practice to 12 hours per week for one sport and 20 for multiple sports.