Hydration tips for pre-fall sports training

With many young school athletes working hard this month to prepare for fall sports, Safe Kids Greater Naugatuck Valley is encouraging parents and coaches to keep children safe especially from heat-related illnesses.

Nearly 3/4 of U.S. households have at least one child who plays organized sports. About 3.5 million children receive medical treatment for a sports-related injury each year, and as many as half of these injuries are preventable according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"With scorching high temperatures and vigorous practice sessions underway for school age children, parents and coaches have an even greater role to play in keeping children safe and injury free," said Cathi Kellett, Safe Kids Greater Naugatuck Valley coordinator. "It's vitally important to set realistic expectations for children about sports and understand how to help them prepare properly, prevent injuries and play safely."

In a nationwide education campaign, supported by its founding sponsor Johnson & Johnson, Safe Kids Worldwide coalitions have hosted more than 150 Youth Sports Safety Clinics for parents and youth coaches since April. Safe Kids Greater Naugatuck Valley, Griffin Hospital and the Valley Parish Nurses will be hosting a Sports Safety program at the 11th Annual Children's Health & Safety Fair on Sunday, Sept. 16, from 9 to 2 p.m. at the Lower Naugatuck Valley Boys & Girls Club, One Positive Place, Shelton.

Heat stroke danger on the rise

The summer heat has brought particular attention to the dangers of heat stroke, one of the leading causes of sudden death in sports. According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the number of heat-related injuries from 1997 to 2006 increased 133%. Youth accounted for the largest proportion of heat-related injuries or 47.6 percent.

According to a leading expert on heat stroke, Dr. Douglas Casa, over the past five years, the number of heat stroke deaths from exertion in youth sports is higher than in any five-year period in the past 35 years.

"One of the most powerful protective steps in assuring that athletes stay hydrated is proper time and access to fluids during physical activity," said Casa, a researcher and professor at the University of Connecticut and chief operating officer at the school's Korey Stringer Institute. "Coaches and parents supervising youth activities in the intense heat must have policies or guidelines in place so that youth athletes can stay cool and properly hydrated during practices and events."

A national survey commissioned by Safe Kids Worldwide in April 2012, funded by Johnson & Johnson, confirmed parents and coaches need more youth sports safety information. In fact, when asked in a survey of over 750 coaches, 73% of coaches reported that they would like more training in heat illness prevention. Additionally, only 1 percent of young athletes reported having heard about heat illness as a type of sports injury.

Safe Kids offers these tips for coaches, parents, and league organizers to prevent heat illness and dehydration:

• Don't wait for kids to tell you they are thirsty. Making regular water breaks (every 15-20 minutes) a habit will help avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

• Young athletes should drink water at least 30 minutes before play and every 15-20 minutes during play.

For more information on Safe Kids Greater Naugatuck Valley's sports safety clinics or sports injury prevention in general, call Kellett at 203-732-1337 or visit www.safekids.org/sports.