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Baystate Children's Hospital offers spring sports safety tips

SPRINGFIELD After remaining relatively inactive during the winter months, experts have an important warning for both adults and children heading back onto the playing fields: Take it slow when resuming your favorite sports from baseball to soccer and from golf to track. "Getting yourself back in shape to play sports isn't something that happens overnight," Dr. Julio Martinez-Silvestrini, staff physiatrist, Baystate Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, said. "The less fit you are, the more likely you will sustain an injury when you begin a vigorous sport or exercise regimen," he added, noting it takes at least two weeks to get into even minimal shape for participating in a recreational sport you enjoy. Another interesting fact, in team sports, most injuries about 62 percent occur during practices, not games. To "play it safe," pre-season conditioning should include aerobic exercise, walking, cycling or jogging, for 30 minutes, at least four times a week. It's also important to include a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes of weighting training twice a week to get back into shape, Martinez-Silvestrini noted. "Before signing up for a school sport, or even if you're an adult who has been inactive for quite a while and are only now returning to sports or exercise, it's important to get a general physical exam," he said. According to Safe Kids of Western Mass., headquartered at Baystate Children's Hospital, each year more than 30 million children participate in sports in the United States and more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under are treated for sports injuries. While collision and contact sports are associated with higher rates of injury, injuries from individual sports tend to be more severe. Martinez-Silvestrini, who is fellowship-trained at the Mayo Clinic and board-certified in sports medicine, noted the most common types of sport-related injuries in children are sprains (mostly ankle), muscle strains, bone or growth plate injuries, tendonitis and contusions, although more serious injuries, such as fractures, ligament or tendon tears may also occur. April is Youth Sports Safety Month and the Safe Kids of Western Mass. offers these precautions to help keep kids safe while playing sports outdoors: Always wear appropriate protective gear for the activity for practice as well as games and make sure it's the right size and properly adjusted. Make sure responsible adults know and enforce the safety rules of the sport, are present to provide supervision, and are trained in first aid and CPR. If you're playing outside, wear SPF 15 or higher sunscreen. Follow the rules. In most sports, the rules are based not only on sportsmanship, but safety. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte sports drinks before and during the activity, and rest frequently during hot weather. "Always do your warm-ups and cool-downs. If it's important before and after a game, it's important before and after practice, too," Martinez-Silvestrini said. He emphasized never to play through an injury. "Get immediate help from a coach or trainer and be sure to mention everything that hurts or aches. All coaches should have a plan for dealing with emergencies," Martinez-Silvestrini said. Baystate Rehabilitation Care hosts a Sports Clinic every Monday from 3 to 7 p.m. at their 360 Birnie Ave. location. They also provide acute care for sports, exercise and other athletic injuries within 24 to 48 hours. "My personal goal is to evaluate and treat athletes as soon as possible to minimize their time off the court or field and to help them recover fast. A 'wait-and-see' approach may work for some types of injuries, but not usually for sports injuries," Martinez-Silvestrini said. "Sports performance requires extreme activities such as jumping higher and running faster which in an injured athlete may worsen their previous injury or cause other types of injuries," he added. For more information about sports safety, call Safe Kids of Western Mass. headquartered at Baystate Children's Hospital at 794-6510 or visit www.usa.safekids.org. For more information about Baystate Rehabilitation Care, its Sports Medicine Program and the Sports Clinic, call 794-1600 or visit www.baystatehealth.org and click on Rehabilitation Care under Services.

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