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Westport Works To Prevent Youth Sports Injuries

WESTPORT, Conn. – The fall sports season in Westport is approaching, and for many parents, that means worrying about their children being injured.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that at least 7 million sports- and recreation-related injuries occur in the United States each year. More than half of those injured are ages 5 to 24.

In Westport, parents can breathe a little easier. Carmen Roda, director of the Westport Police Athletic League , said it takes injury prevention seriously and has seen a decrease in injuries.

“We’ll never be able to completely eliminate injuries,” Roda said. “But we can recognize them earlier, treat them faster and be as educated as we can on the best training practices to prevent injuries.” PAL serves more than 1,300 students from third through eighth grade.

In helping prevent injuries, all PAL coaches are required to have training in CPR and first aid. Additionally, since 2007, all coaches are mandated to receive annual concussion training, something no other youth sports program in the state requires, Roda said. Since 2007, the number of concussions has dropped from 30 to five last year, he said.

In the event of an injury, Westport EMS are present at every home game, Roda added.

In the football program, a certified athletic trainer works with the coaches, training them on proper drills and stretching techniques.

The league also provides students in its football program with protective gear. This equipment, Roda said, is reconditioned and recertified every year to make sure “it’s the safest it can be for the kids.”

Most childhood sports injuries fall into one of four categories. The most common are sprains and strains, which affect overextended ligaments and muscles. One of the most at-risk of these is the anterior cruciate ligament , or ACL, in the lower leg.

Dr. Thomas Trojian of the University of Connecticut Health Center said the greatest risk for this type of injury is in sports with rapid changes of direction, such as basketball, football, soccer and lacrosse.

Another group is growth plate injuries , which damage a child's growing bones. They particularly affect the long bones of the body: forearms, upper and lower legs, and hands and feet. Proper safety equipment will help prevent injuries in these cases.

There are also repetitive motion injuries, such as tendinitis, which come from overuse of muscles, bones and tendons. Golfers, tennis players and especially baseball and softball pitchers are especially prone to this type of injury.

The fourth category is heat-related injuries, often caused by dehydration or overexposure to the sun. Drinking plenty of water and staying in shade whenever possible are the best ways to prevent these injuries.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has a guide to preventing sports injuries for parents and children.

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