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Harvard Commentaries
35320
Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School


Spring Safely Into Fall


August 07, 2012

By Henry H. Bernstein


School has started and the signs of fall are beginning, with shorter days and cooler temperatures. During this time of year, our attention turns to fall activities, which bring with them special safety concerns.

Here are a few tips, adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to help your children and family stay safe.

Football

Football is a popular fall sport, but also one in which injuries are fairly common and sometimes quite serious. Kids of all ages play tackle football and therefore are at risk of injury. Studies have shown that two of every three high school players and one out of five younger players are injured during the football season. Many football injuries can be prevented if players use the right kind of safety gear and follow the rules of the game.

  • Children need to stretch before and after games and practices to keep their bodies working well.

 

  • Children must drink plenty of fluids before, during and after games and practices, especially when humidity and temperatures are high. Water is fine if exercising for less than an hour. If longer, drink sports drinks.

 

  • Mouth guards and eye protection must be worn. Eyeglasses should be secured with a sports strap.

 

  • Coaches and parents must teach, and insist that players follow, the rules of the game. They should never allow illegal blocking (pulling a player down by the knees or grabbing the face mask), tackling from behind, or "spearing" (using the top of the helmet to tackle).

 

  • Always use the best equipment possible and wear it the right way for every practice and game! Tackle football players must wear a helmet; pads for the shoulders, hips, tailbone and knees; and thigh guards.

 

  • Helmets must have a stamp of approval by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) and must fit well and be in good condition. One-fifth of high school players and two-fifths of college players will have a head injury at some point in their careers.

 

  • Male athletes should wear athletic supporters with a protective cup to prevent any injuries to their genitalia.

 

  • Make sure injuries have healed completely before returning to play.

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Soccer

In recent years, soccer has become one of the most popular sports in the United States. While it can be a great way to get exercise and make friends, soccer also can cause some injuries, sharing many of the same medical concerns as other contact and collision sports.

  • Goal posts must be properly secured at all times, and padding is strongly encouraged. Children have been killed when goal posts have fallen on them. Players should never be allowed to hang or swing from goal posts.

 

  • Shin guards must be worn at all times.

 

  • Shoes with molded cleats or ribbed soles are recommended. Never use removable baseball- or football-type spikes.

 

  • Mouth guards and eye protection must be worn. Eyeglasses should be secured with a sports strap.

 

  • Male athletes should wear athletic supporters with a protective cup to prevent any injuries to their genitalia.

 

  • Discourage hair combs, barrettes and any jewelry during play.

 

  • Waterproof, synthetic balls should be used for youth soccer. Leather balls get heavy when wet, increasing the risk of injury.

 

  • Children need to stretch before and after games and practices to keep their bodies working well.

 

  • Children must drink plenty of fluids before, during and after games and practices, especially when humidity and temperatures are high. Water is fine if exercising for less than an hour. If longer, drink sports drinks.

 

  • Coaches and parents must teach, and insist that players follow, the rules of the game. Up to 25% of soccer injuries happen when players break these rules.

 

  • While most severe head injuries occur when players run into each other or into the goalpost, some concern has been raised about the safety of hitting the ball with the head ("heading"). Heading should not be encouraged until children are able to learn the skills necessary to do it correctly and safely.

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Hunting and Guns

In some areas of the country, fall marks the beginning of hunting season for different types of wildlife. Keeping a gun in the home poses a very real danger to your family. Thousands of children are killed or seriously injured by guns every year. Even BB and pellet guns are dangerous. These tips can help reduce the risk of injury:

  • If you decide to keep a gun in your home, empty it out and lock it up. All guns should be stored unloaded, with the safety lock on, in a locked cabinet, out of sight and reach of children.

 

  • Store ammunition separately, also in a locked cabinet.

 

  • Teach children NEVER to touch a gun.

 

  • Teach children to tell an adult immediately if they see a gun.

 

  • Talk to your children about ways to solve arguments without guns or violence.

 

  • Remove all firearms from your home if someone has a drug or alcohol problem, becomes depressed, threatens suicide, has a major mental illness, or has memory problems.

 

  • Before your child goes to a friend's house, ask the friend's parent if there are guns in the house. If the answer is yes, make sure all guns are stored safely, as described above.

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Henry H. Bernstein, D.O., is a senior lecturer in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. In addition, he is chief of General Academic Pediatrics at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School. He is the former associate chief of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital Boston.

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