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Awareness and Proper Care Can Protect NC School Athletes

August 22, 2011

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Whether it's football, soccer, cheer-leading, or tee-ball, fall sports season is already in full swing for many kids in North Carolina. Experts say it's critical that players are physically prepared, know their limits and use the proper safety equipment, correctly fitted. They warn that, without the proper precautions, children can be vulnerable to injury.

Dr. Lillian Thomas, a chiropractor in Asheville, says that with many full-contact sports, whiplash is a common injury. Though not always immediately apparent, the blows to the body can add up.

"Over time, bones will get stuck out of their normal position and they can start to experience some symptoms. Some children have headaches or learning problems because their spine's been misaligned."

Dr. Kevin Gebke, an expert in sports medicine, says there's also the matter of making sure kids have the proper sizes of equipment and, for those in track, that includes running shoes.

"We see a significant increase in overuse injuries, including stress fractures, in people who don't have the appropriate footwear."

Gebke says that means shoes with less than 400 miles of running and walking on them. The doctor says miles add up quickly when a cross-country runner trains 40 miles a week.

Thomas says even the slightest of injuries can affect children later in life.

"Even if you have a little symptom when you're younger, it can explode in five or 10 years and it can become a full-blown issue."

One important precaution this time of year is staying hydrated. While North Carolina weather is cooling in some parts of the state, hot and humid conditions can still persist, quickly put a child at risk for heat-related illnesses.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC