While sports have a number of fantastic benefits-promoting active lifestyles, teaching leadership and teamwork skills, and more-they also have a number of inherent safety risks. In 2013, more than 1.24 million children ages 19 and under were seen in emergency departments for injuries related to 14 commonly played sports.

Keep in mind these top five sports safety tips to help keep your child safe on the playing field, on the court, in the gym, or wherever else.

1. Take your child to get a physical at your pediatrician’s office before starting any sport. These screenings can often be done in accordance with back-to-school check-ups and are used to make sure that your child doesn’t have any pre-existing conditions that could be exacerbated by sporting activities. In fact, many sports programs require physicals before children will be allowed to participate.

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2. Make sure that your child and their teammates are being actively supervised at all times. This helps to prevent unnecessary injuries and to ensure the safety of all children involved. Similarly, it’s a good idea for all coaches, aides, and assistants to be certified in CPR and basic first aid.

3. Take steps to promote health-conscious behaviors before, during, and after sporting activities. Encouraging proper hydration can help to prevent dehydration and extreme muscle fatigue. Ensuring that your child gets a warm up and warm down with proper stretching technique can help avoid injuries as well. Also, making sure that your child gets proper breaks and rest in between games and even in between seasons can help to prevent overuse injuries.

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4. If your child plays a contact sport such as football, lacrosse, or soccer, be aware of the danger of head injuries. Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are quite common in these types of sports. In soccer, players often use their heads to stop the motion of the ball and to direct it. In football, children are often taught improper technique and tackle one another headfirst. Learn to identify the early signs of concussions and be sure to take your child to a doctor right away if you suspect they may have a brain injury.

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5. Always ensure that the appropriate protective safety equipment is being used. Sport-specific helmets should be purchased and used whenever applicable. A bike helmet should never be worn in place of a baseball or football helmet. Mouth guards, ear guards, and specially designed goggles can also be worn to protect the more sensitive areas of your child’s face. Depending on the sport, other types of safety equipment may be mandatory as well. For example, most soccer leagues require players to wear shin guards.

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