Preventing Sports Injuries: Kids Play it Safe with Plastics

Preventing Sports Injuries: Kids Play it Safe with Plastics Image

Playing sports is a great way for kids to keep active and stay healthy.  But as any parent of an aspiring world champion or future hall-of-famer can tell you, sports can also lead to injuries.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 3.5 million kids ages 14 and under are injured each year while playing sports or during a recreational activity, such as riding a bike.  The good news is that many of these injuries can be prevented.  Safety gear, safe playing environments and the enforcement of rules designed to prevent injuries are successful in helping to reduce the frequency and severity of sports- and recreation-related injuries among children.

From 1987 to 2000, protective plastic sporting gear helped contribute to a 40 percent decline in the unintentional injury-related death rate among children in the United States.  Innovations in plastics have helped to make essential safety gear – items like plastic helmets, mouth guards, goggles and knee and wrist pads – lighter and stronger to help keep our active kids safe.

Help keep your child off the sidelines with these all-star safety gear tips:

  • Teach your child to use properly fitting, sport-specific safety gear – every time.  According to Safe Kids Worldwide, most sports-related injuries (62 percent) occur during practices, so remember that safety gear is just as important during practice as it is for the big game.  Make it a rule: No gear, no game, and no exceptions, including practice.
  • Learn what safety equipment is best for your child’s activity.  Check with your child’s coach or an official rule book for a list of required safety gear.  Every sport or activity is different and will require different types of protective equipment.  In some cases, government safety authorities, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission, or the organizations that govern various sports have established labeling or certification systems to distinguish protective items that meet certain standards. See an official rule book or look online to learn what standards apply to your child’s sports and safety equipment. 
  • Check to make sure that your child’s gear fits correctly.  If it’s too big or too small, it may be uncomfortable for your child to wear, and it may not be as effective.
  • Let your child help pick out her safety gear.  For example, once you’ve established the appropriate safety criteria and fit, let your child choose the color of her helmet.  The more she likes it, the more she’ll be inclined to wear it, and that will help make your job easier.
  • Help kids remember to stay hydrated.  This is especially important in hot weather or when your child is involved in physically intense or endurance activities.  As your child heads off to play, pack a shatter-resistant plastic water bottle with the rest of his safety gear, and bring along plenty of cool, ready-to-eat fruits packaged in air-tight plastic containers or resealable plastic bags.
  • Set a positive example.  Safety rules should be practiced by all family members at all times.  Safety gear isn’t always the first thing in kids’ minds, so it’s up to parents and “cool” older siblings to lead the way. 
  • Choose the right helmet for your child’s sport.  Research has shown that wearing a bicycle helmet while bicycling can reduce the risk of head injuries by 85 percent.  Even so, a bicycle helmet isn’t right for every activity. Plastic helmets come in a variety of shapes and styles depending on the sport.  Sport-specific helmets are engineered to take into account different risk factors unique to each sport, such as playing surfaces and the force and direction of potential impact. 
  • Don’t forget mouth guards.  The cost for a basic stock plastic mouth guard is around $3.  The cost to replant a tooth, including follow-up treatment is around $5,000.  Victims of knocked-out teeth who do not have the tooth properly replanted may face lifetime dental costs of $10,000 to $15,000.  Plastic mouth guards help prevent injury to the mouth, teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue.  Although it’s possible to loose a tooth even with a mouth guard, wearing one greatly reduces the risk.  According to the National Youth Sports Foundation for Safety, an athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain damage to the teeth when not wearing a protective mouth guard.
  • Protect their vision with proper eye gear.  Eye injuries can cause vision-loss in children.  Around 30 percent of eye injuries among children are sports related, and 90 percent of those are preventable. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other experts recommend protective eyewear made from polycarbonate, a lightweight plastic that can withstand blunt force without shattering.  Contact your eye care professional to assist in selecting the right protective eyewear for your child.
  • In addition to her helmet, safeguard your bicycler, skateboarder, or scooter rider with knee, elbow and wrist guards.  Tough plastics in protective athletic gear help prevent injuries from falling and crashing. Research for some of these activities shows that wearing wrist guards could reduce the number of wrist injuries by 87 percent, wearing elbow pads could reduce the number of elbow injuries by 82 percent, and wearing knee pads could reduce the number of knee injuries by 32 percent.
  • Deflect or absorb the impact of a kick or flying ball with shin guards. Made from fiberglass, polyurethane or foam rubber, shin guards are recommended for soccer, field hockey, and some positions in baseball and softball. 

Plastics at Work in Your Helmet
Today's lightweight helmets provide comfort, style and protection. Most helmets have a hard, crack-resistant outer shell, made from injection-molded plastic, such as ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene) or fiberglass. Helmet interiors contain plastic foam pads, constructed from EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate), expanded polyurethane, expanded polystyrene or polypropylene.  These plastics are designed to mitigate an impact by spreading the force over a greater area of the head and by reducing friction in a slide. For example, the stiff polystyrene inner plastic foam withstands great force before crushing and helps provide a proper fit.

Plastics Delivering Sports Safety and Performance
Runners are running faster, tennis players play harder and more cyclists are walking away from serious spills. How? In large part, because of the safety and performance attributes of plastics. » more  

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