Don’t Start Your Spring Without These Sports Safety Tips

April 12, 2019

As the weather starts to get warmer, many of us will spend more time outdoors, tidying up the yard, playing with the kids or taking them to their sport matches. The more physically active we become, the more we should be aware of sports safety.

In support of Youth Sports Safety Month, Dr. Jennifer Naticchia-Walls, Family Medicine and Sports Medicine Physician of Haddonfield Primary & Specialty Care, shares safety and treatment tips!

Dr. Naticchia-Walls, Fellowship-trained in Sports Medicine, played many sports as a child and young adult, including Division I Field Hockey and lacrosse at Princeton University, track and field, softball, and gymnastics. She is also a school physician for three districts, and  coach of youth sports teams in her hometown of Haddonfield.

Working in sports medicine doesn’t just mean treating orthopedic and musculoskeletal injuries, such as overuse of the ankle, knee, shoulder, or back. Patients are often treated for asthma, allergies, upper respiratory infections, blood pressure complications, and concussions.

Dr. Naticchia-Walls sees patients of all ages, some of whom don’t play sports. They may have gotten hurt due to a labor-intensive job or hobby.

“In my eyes, an active person is an athlete,” said Dr. Naticchia-Walls. “I’ve seen a 12-year-old with knee pain, a 73-year-old gardener with back and foot pain, and a 32-year-old data analyst with wrist pain.”

With community medicine and sports as her two passions, Dr. Naticchia-Walls strives to share the importance of sports safety with others, saying, “preventing a sports injury, rather than treating one, is beneficial not only for me, but for the athlete, their parents, their trainer, and even their teammates.”

Sports Safety Tip #1: Make sure you have appropriate protective gear.

“If you’re a carpenter, wear protective clothing, goggles and hard hats. There are many sports that require head and eye gear, such as field hockey and lacrosse,” said Dr. Naticchia-Walls. “Unfortunately, women’s athletic equipment is not always fitted properly, so ask a professional to check it. Also, pay attention to the weather; overdressing or underdressing can be dangerous.”

Sports Safety Tip #2: Stretch yourself before you wreck yourself.

“A lot of older athletes like to skip their stretches, because they think it’s more productive to run an extra mile. Warming up and cooling down for 10 minutes is extremely effective at preventing injuries,” explained Dr. Naticchia-Walls. “As you get older, it’s particularly important to work toward improving flexibility to prevent falls.”

Sports Safety Tip #3: If you’re in pain, act on it.

“It used to be common for athletes to say ‘no pain, no gain,’” said Dr. Naticchia-Walls. “We don’t promote this. Please, don’t say this to your children. If you or your child are in pain for more than 3 days, you need to be seen by a professional. During a match, if a player seems hurt, pull them out of the game and seek medical care.”

Sports Safety Tip #4: RICE for muscle strain and swelling.

“If you pulled a muscle or sprained an ankle, follow RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation,” said Dr. Naticchia-Walls. “Use ice at first. A few days later, you can use heat. Remember, ice can burn you like heat, so never put it directly on the skin. Administer it 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off for as long as your doctor advises.”

Sports Safety Tip #5: For concussions – when it doubt, sit it out!

“Concussions can be pretty dangerous – sometimes fatal – especially if a child sustains more than one without fully healing,” explained Dr. Naticchia-Walls. “Keep in mind, a concussion doesn’t just result from hitting your head. When you fall, that vibration may travel to your head. If a child is complaining about a headache, dizziness, or that they can’t remember the last play, play it safe and pull them out of the game.”

If you’re hesitant to try a new sport for you or your child, just remember there are many resources, including online safety courses, and professionals available to help. Talk to community members and your primary care physician or pediatrician.

When everyone is in tune with sports safety, including the kids, trainers, coaches, school nurses and parents, we can prevent injury and focus more on having fun.

To learn more about Primary & Specialty Care Services at Jefferson Health in New Jersey, click HERE