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Bike Safety

Bike riding is a great way to get exercise and fresh air and share time as a family. But before you and the kids rush out and start pedaling, there's an important factor that you need to consider - safety.

Helmet Basics

Bicycle helmet use should not be optional for anyone in your family, no matter where you are or how short the ride. In many states it's the law.

Here's why: Many bike accidents involve a head injury, so a crash could mean permanent brain damage or death for someone who doesn't wear one while riding. In fact, each year in the United States, about half a million kids are seriously injured in bicycle-related accidents, and most of those injuries could have been avoided if a helmet was worn. To protect against brain injury, make sure your kids wear a correctly fitting helmet on every ride.

Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a helmet:

  • Pick bright colors or fluorescent colors that are visible to drivers and other cyclists.
  • Look for a helmet that's well ventilated.
  • Make sure that the helmet has a CPSC or Snell sticker inside. These indicate that the helmet meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or the Snell Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit group that tests helmet safety.
  • Make sure your child's helmet fits correctly and can be adjusted.

You should be able to get help finding a well-fitting helmet and adjusting it properly at any bicycle store.

When kids wear a helmet, make sure that the straps are fastened. Also make sure they don't wear any other hat underneath it.

Be sure to replace any helmet made before 1999. If your child hits any surface hard while wearing a helmet, replace it - helmets lose their capacity to absorb shock after taking serious hits.

A few bike helmets can be used as protection for other activities, but in general, they're best suited to biking. Most helmets are made for one specific type of activity - for example, special helmets also are made for inline skating, baseball, and snowmobiling.

Kids should not wear any helmet when they're on a playground or climbing a tree - there is a risk of strangulation from the chin strap during these types of activities.

Safe Clothing

What kids wear when riding a bike is also very important for safety:

  • Fluorescent or bright-colored clothes will help kids be visible on the road, and they're more visible than white clothes. (Avoid dark clothes, especially during early dusk and twilight hours.)
  • Wear something that helps to reflect light like reflective tape.
  • Lightweight clothes will help them avoid becoming overheated.
  • Pant legs shouldn't be too loose-fitting or flared. These can get caught up in the chain while riding.
  • If your child wears a backpack while riding, make sure the straps are tied up and can't get tangled in the spokes of the wheels. Keep the backpack as light as possible.
  • Choose shoes that grip the bike's pedals. Cleats, shoes with heels, or flip-flops can all create problems while riding. Kids should never ride barefoot!

Rules of the Road for Bike Riding

Here are some must-know safety tips to teach kids:

  • Stop at all stop signs and obey traffic lights just as cars do. Yield to pedestrians, stop at red lights, and be especially careful at intersections.
  • Always ride in the same direction as cars do. Never ride against traffic.
  • Older kids should try to use bike lanes or designated bike routes whenever you can - not the sidewalk! Kids less than 10 years should ride on the sidewalk.
  • Never ride at dusk or in the dark.
  • Always stop and check for traffic in both directions when leaving a driveway, an alley, or a curb.
  • Watch traffic closely for turning cars or cars leaving driveways.
  • Don't ride too close to parked cars - doors can open suddenly.
  • Always walk a bike across busy intersections using the crosswalk and following traffic signals.
  • When riding in a group, always ride single file on the street.
  • When passing other bikers or people on the street, always pass to their left and call out "On your left!" so they'll watch for you.
  • Never share the seat with a friend or ride on the handlebars - only one person should be on a bike at a time. It's easy to lose balance or suddenly swerve into traffic when riding with a passenger.
  • Never wear headphones while biking - it's essential to hear everyone else on the road at all times.
  • Never stand up while riding a bike.
  • Never hitch a ride on a moving vehicle.
  • Never change directions or lanes without first looking behind you, and always use the correct hand signals. Use your left arm for all hand signals:

    • Left turn: After checking behind you, hold your arm straight out to the left and ride forward slowly.
    • Stop: After checking behind you, bend your elbow, pointing your arm downward in an upside down "L" shape and come to a stop.
    • Right turn: After checking behind you, bend your elbow, holding your arm up in an "L" shape, and ride forward slowly. Or, hold your right arm straight out from your side.

 

Preventing Children's Sports Injuries

Causes of Sports Injuries

Participation in any sport, whether it's recreational bike riding or Pee-Wee football, can teach kids to stretch their limits and learn sportsmanship and discipline. But any sport also carries the potential for injury.

By knowing the causes of sports injuries and how to prevent them, you can help make athletics a positive experience for your child.

Kids can be particularly susceptible to sports injuries for a variety of reasons. Kids, particularly those younger than 8 years old, are less coordinated and have slower reaction times than adults because they are still growing and developing.

In addition, kids mature at different rates. Often there's a substantial difference in height and weight between kids of the same age. And when kids of varying sizes play sports together, there may be an increased risk of injury.

As kids grow bigger and stronger, the potential for injury increases, largely because of the amount of force involved. For example, a collision between two 8-year-old Pee-Wee football players who weigh 65 or 70 pounds each does not produce as much force as that produced by two 16-year-old high school football players who may each weigh up to 200 pounds.

Also, kids may not assess the risks of certain activities as fully as adults might. So they might unknowingly take risks that can result in injuries.

 

Preventing Sports Injuries

You can help prevent your child from being injured by following some simple guidelines:

Use of Proper Equipment

It's important for kids to use proper equipment and safety gear that is the correct size and fits well. For example, kids should wear helmets for baseball, softball, bicycle riding, and hockey. They also should wear helmets while they're inline skating or riding scooters and skateboards.

For racquet sports and basketball, ask about any protective eyewear, like shatterproof goggles. Ask your child's coach about the appropriate helmets, shoes, mouth guards, athletic cups and supporters, and padding.

Protective equipment should be approved by the organizations that govern each of the sports. Hockey facemasks, for example, should be approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Bicycle helmets should have a safety certification sticker from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Also, all equipment should be properly maintained to ensure its effectiveness. In the United States, the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) sets many of the standards for helmets, facemasks, and shin guards. In addition to meeting the NOSCAE standards, all equipment should be properly maintained to ensure its effectiveness over time.

Maintenance and Appropriateness of Playing Surfaces

Check that playing fields are not full of holes and ruts that might cause kids to fall or trip. Kids doing high-impact sports, like basketball and running, should do them on surfaces like tracks and wooden basketball courts, which can be more forgiving than surfaces like concrete.

Adequate Adult Supervision and Commitment to Safety

Any team sport or activity that kids participate in should be supervised by qualified adults. Select leagues and teams that have the same commitment to safety and injury prevention that you do.

The team coach should have training in first aid and CPR, and the coach's philosophy should promote players' well-being. A coach with a win-at-all-costs attitude may encourage kids to play through injury and may not foster good sportsmanship. Be sure that the coach enforces playing rules and requires that safety equipment be used at all times.

Additionally, make sure your kids are matched for sports according to their skill level, size, and physical and emotional maturity.

Proper Preparation

Just as you wouldn't send a child who can't swim to a swimming pool, it's important not to send kids to play a sport that they're unprepared to play. Make sure that your child knows how to play the sport before going out on the field.

Your child should be adequately prepared with warm-ups and training sessions before practices as well as before games. This will help ensure that your child has fun and reduce the chances of an injury.

In addition, your child should drink plenty of fluids and be allowed to rest during practices and games.

Common Types of Sports Injuries

Three common types of sports injuries in children are acute injuries, overuse injuries, and reinjuries:

Acute Injuries

Acute injuries occur suddenly and are usually associated with some form of trauma. In younger children, acute injuries typically include minor bruises, sprains, and strains. Teen athletes are more likely to sustain more severe injuries, including broken bones and torn ligaments.

More severe acute injuries that can occur, regardless of age, include: eye injuries, including scratched corneas, detached retinas, and blood in the eye; broken bones or ligament injuries; brain injuries, including concussions, skull fractures, brain hemorrhages; and spinal cord injuries.

Acute injuries often occur because of a lack of proper equipment or the use of improper equipment. For example, without protective eyewear, eye injuries are extremely common in basketball and racquet sports. In addition, many kids playing baseball and softball have suffered broken legs or ankles from sliding into immobile bases.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries occur from repetitive actions that put too much stress on the bones and muscles. Although these injuries can occur in adults as well as kids, they're more problematic in a child athlete because of the effect they may have on bone growth.

All kids who play sports can develop an overuse injury, but the likelihood increases with the amount of time a child spends on the sport.

Some of the most common types of overuse injuries are:

  • anterior knee pain: Anterior knee pain is pain in the front of the knee under the kneecap. The knee will be sore and swollen due to tendon or cartilage inflammation. The cause is usually muscle tightness in the hamstrings or quadriceps, the major muscle groups around the thigh.
  • Little League elbow: Repetitive throwing sometimes results in pain and tenderness in the elbow. The ability to flex and extend the arm may be affected, but the pain typically occurs after the follow-through of the throw. In addition to pain, pitchers sometimes complain of loss of velocity or decreased endurance.
  • swimmer's shoulder: Swimmer's shoulder is an inflammation (swelling) of the shoulder caused by the repeated stress of the overhead motion associated with swimming or throwing a ball. The pain typically begins intermittently but may progress to continuous pain in the back of the shoulder.
  • shin splints: Shin splints are characterized by pain and discomfort on the front of the lower parts of the legs. They are often caused by repeated running on a hard surface or overtraining at the beginning of a season.
  • spondylolysis: Spondylolysis often results from trauma or from repetitive flexing, then overextension, twisting, or compression of the back muscles. This can cause persistent lower back pain. Spondylolysis is commonly seen in kids who participate in soccer, football, weight lifting, gymnastics, wrestling, and diving.

 

Overuse injuries can be caused or aggravated by:

  • growth spurts or an imbalance between strength and flexibility
  • inadequate warm-up
  • excessive activity (for example, increased intensity, duration, or frequency of playing and/or training)
  • playing the same sport year-round or multiple sports during the same season
  • improper technique (for example, overextending on a pitch)
  • unsuitable equipment (for example, nonsupportive athletic shoes)

Reinjuries

Reinjury occurs when an athlete returns to the sport before a previous injury has sufficiently healed. Athletes are at a much greater risk for reinjury when they return to the game before recovering fully. Doing so places stress upon the injury and forces the body to compensate for the weakness, which can put the athlete at greater risk for injuring another body part.

Reinjury can be avoided by allowing an injury to completely heal. Once the doctor has approved a return to the sport, make sure that your child properly warms up and cools down before and after exercise.

Sudden exertion can also cause reinjury, so your child should re-enter the sport gradually. Explain that easing back into the game at a sensible pace is better than returning to the hospital!

Treating Sports Injuries

Treatment of sports injuries varies by the type of injury.

For acute injuries, many pediatric sports medicine specialists usually take a "better safe than sorry" approach. If an injury appears to affect basic functioning in any way - for example, if your child can't bend a finger, is limping, or has had a change in consciousness - first aid should be administered immediately. A doctor should then see the child. If the injury seems to be more serious, it's important to take your child to the nearest hospital emergency department.

For overuse injuries, the philosophy is similar. If a child begins complaining of pain, it's the body's way of saying there's a problem. Have the child examined by a doctor who can then determine whether it's necessary to see a sports medicine specialist. A doctor can usually diagnose many of these conditions by taking a medical history, examining the child, and ordering some routine tests.

It's important to get overuse injuries diagnosed and treated to prevent them from developing into larger chronic problems. The doctor may advise the child to temporarily modify or eliminate an activity to limit stress on the body.

In some cases, the child may not be able to resume the sport without risking further injury. Because overuse injuries are characterized by swelling, the doctor may prescribe rest, medications to help reduce inflammation, and physical therapy. When recovery is complete, your child's technique or training schedule may need to be adjusted to prevent the injury from flaring up again.

 

Baseball

There's a reason why baseball has been called our national pastime for decades. It's as American as hot dogs and apple pie. It's been a summer tradition in big cities and little towns across the U.S.A. for generations. It's a great team sport, and it's fun.

Why Baseball Safety Is Important

Baseball is by no means a dangerous sport. But it can present a very real risk of injuries from things like wild pitches, batted balls, and collisions in the field.

At the high-school level, some pitchers can throw fastballs that reach 80-plus miles per hour, speedy enough to cause painful welts, broken bones, even concussions. Excessive pitching and improper throwing mechanics can lead to major league arm problems, and base runners and fielders frequently collide while running at top speed.

Gear Guidelines

As with all sports, wearing and using the right gear can go a long way toward preventing injuries. The amount of equipment required for baseball isn't on par with football or hockey, but it is every bit as important. Players need to be sure they always have all the gear required by their league.

Most leagues will insist on the following:

  • Batting helmets must be worn whenever a player is at bat, waiting to bat, or running the bases. Some leagues may even require pitchers to wear them. Helmets should always fit properly and be worn correctly. If the helmet has a chin strap, it should be fastened, and if the helmet has an eye shield or other faceguard, this should be in good condition, securely attached to the helmet.
  • A catcher should always wear a helmet, facemask, throat guard, full-length chest protector, athletic supporter with a cup, shin guards and a catcher's mitt whenever they are catching pitches, whether it's in the game, in the bullpen or during warmups.
  • Baseball spikes should have molded plastic cleats rather than metal ones. Most youth leagues don't allow spikes with metal cleats.
  • Some leagues have guidelines dictating what kind of bat a player can use. Some aluminum bats may be banned for hitting batted balls too hard. Be sure to check the league's policy before choosing a bat.
  • All players should wear athletic supporters; most, particularly pitchers and infielders, should wear protective cups. Rules regarding which players must wear cups vary from league to league.
  • Additional gear that some players like includes sliding pants, which are meant to go under baseball pants to protect against scrapes and cuts; batting gloves, which can keep hands from getting sore while hitting; shin and foot guards, which are designed to protect against balls fouled straight down; and mouthguards.

Breakaway Bases

Base paths are one of the most common places injuries happen. This is especially true when players slide into a traditional stationary base, which puts a rigid obstacle in their path as they slide. Sliding into a fixed base can result in foot, ankle, and lower-leg injuries.

As a result, doctors have started recommending that leagues install breakaway bases in all of their playing fields. These bases, which snap onto grommets on an anchored rubber mat, can be dislodged when a runner slides into one, lessening the chances that a base runner will get injured. During the course of normal base-running, the base is stable and does not detach.

Before Starting the Game

Ideally, kids should get plenty of exercise before the season begins and be in the best shape possible before swinging a bat for the first time. This will not only lower the risk of injury, but it will also make them better ballplayers.

Just as with any other sport, warming up and stretching before a baseball game is very important. However, remember that in baseball, kids should pay particular attention to their throwing arm. Most will require plenty of warmup before they can safely attempt a long, hard throw.

Different players have different preferences when it comes to warming up their arms. Some like to make short throws, while others prefer to start with long, easy tosses. Regardless of how a player chooses to warm up, the idea is to start with soft throws meant to stretch muscles and loosen up joints. As the arm warms up, the intensity of throws should be gradually increased until the player is throwing as he or she would during a game situation.

Make sure that all bats, balls, and other equipment used during warmups are safely put away before play begins, and always inspect the playing field for holes and debris, especially broken glass.

 

During Game Play

Painful collisions can and do occur in baseball. With attention focused on the ball, it's easy to lose track of where people are. If there's any doubt as to who should field a ball, one player should call for it as loudly as he or she can to let the others know to back away. Players should practice doing this with teammates to get used to listening for each other's voices.

While batting, it's important for kids to stand confidently in the batter's box and not be afraid of the ball. That being said, baseballs are hard objects. Getting hit with a pitch hurts. Kids should know how to safely get out of the way if a pitch is headed toward them. The best way to do this is to duck and turn away from the pitcher, exposing the back and rear end to the pitch instead of the face and midsection.

On the base paths, players should practice running the bases with their heads up, looking out for other players and batted balls. They should also know how to slide correctly. Many leagues make it illegal for kids to slide head-first, as this can lead to head injuries and facial cuts.

 

Excessive Pitching

Pitching, particularly for adolescent arms that are still growing, puts an enormous amount of strain on joints and tendons. Injuries to wrists, elbows, rotator cuffs, ligaments, and tendons can result from excessive pitching but can be largely avoided if players and coaches follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Make sure pitchers adhere to league rules regarding the maximum number of innings they're allowed to throw. This will generally range from four to 10 innings per week. If a kid plays for more than one team, include all innings pitched each week, not just the ones for each team.
  • Most leagues follow rules regarding the number of pitches kids can throw in a game. Keep in mind that even major league pitchers have strict pitch counts to keep their arms healthy. Here are the pitch count limits recommended by U.S.A. Little League and the American Sports Medicine Institute:
    • 7-8 years old: 50 pitches a day or 75 pitches a week
    • 9-10 years old: 75 pitches a day or 100 pitches a week
    • 11-12 years old: 85 pitches a day or 115 pitches a week
    • 13-16 years old: 95 pitches a day
    • 17-18 years old: 105 pitches a day
  • Pitchers under 14 should limit total pitches to less than 1,000 per season and 3,000 per year.
  • All players should take at least 3 months off per year from overhead sports (i.e., sports that involve a lot of overhead arm movements like baseball or volleyball).
  • If pitchers feel persistent pain in their throwing arm, they should not be allowed to pitch again until the pain goes away.

A Few Other Reminders

  • Make sure a responsible adult is on hand any time a baseball game is played, whether it's a parent, coach, or umpire. In the event someone gets seriously hurt, an adult should be around to take an injured player to the emergency room.
  • Make sure first aid is readily available.
  • Steroids or human growth hormones aren't just illegal - they're dangerous.

 

Basketball

From the asphalt courts of Harlem to the high school gyms of Indiana, basketball is a way of life for millions of American teens. Guys want to be the next LeBron or Shaq. Girls want to be the next hotshot recruit at UConn or Tennessee. But there's more to it than just fame and fortune. Everyone is playing because they love the game of basketball.

It may be fun to play and great exercise, but basketball is also a contact sport, and injuries occur frequently. Also, since basketball players play year-round, indoors and out, many suffer from repetitive stress injuries like tendonitis. To help make sure you're doing everything you can to stay safe on the basketball court, follow these safety tips.

Why Basketball Safety Is Important

Nearly half a million basketball injuries are treated by doctors and hospitals each year. Fortunately, very few of those are life-threatening. Some (like broken bones, concussions, and ligament tears) can be quite serious, though. And while playing through the pain may seem noble to kids, it can lead to serious muscle and joint problems over time.

Sprained ankles are the most common basketball injuries, but jammed or broken fingers, bruises, bloody or broken noses, and poked eyes are all too common as well. When playing outdoors, abrasions (particularly to the palms and fingers) are always a risk.

Indoor ball presents its own hazards in the form of walls and bleachers, and players are bound to collide going after loose balls and rebounds wherever they play.

Gear Guidelines

Two people, a ball, and a basketball hoop are just about everything needed for a basketball game. But this doesn't mean that kids don't need to pay attention to what gear to wear, especially on their feet. When taking the court, they should always be wearing the following:

  • Basketball sneakers. The right shoe can go a long way toward reducing ankle, foot, and leg injuries. For added ankle support, some players choose to play in high-top sneakers, but low-rise shoes will suffice. All basketball shoes should have a sturdy, non-skid sole and should be the right size and securely laced at all times while playing. Kids should never play basketball in open-toed shoes, clogs, or heels (it sounds ridiculous, but it's been known to happen).
  • Athletic support. Wearing a protective cup is usually up to personal choice unless the particular league requires it, but boys will appreciate having a good athletic supporter when running down the court or jostling under the net. Girls should consider a good sports bra, and many players of both sexes choose to wear supportive athletic shorts beneath their basketball shorts.
  • Mouthguard. Some youth leagues may require players to wear a mouthguard. In any case, kids should strongly consider wearing one anyway to guard against broken teeth, mouth, or tongue injuries.
  • Other gear. Players who wear glasses, and many who wear contacts, will want to use protective eyewear made of shatterproof plastic. Kids with prior injuries can benefit from fitted knee, ankle, or wrist braces to support their joints while playing.

Where to Play

Since basketball can involve anywhere from two to 10 players, it can be played in small spaces as easily as giant arenas. Driveways, playgrounds, and gyms are all potential courts and present basketball players with an ever-changing variety of surfaces.

Regardless of where the game is played, players should always inspect the court beforehand and make sure it is free of debris, particularly broken glass and loose gravel. The court surface should also be free of any cracks, holes, or irregularities that could lead to sprained or twisted ankles.

For night games played outside, the court should be well lit and in a safe area. Indoor courts should have plenty of distance between the edges of the court and any walls, bleachers, or other obstacles. Basket stands and any walls near them should be well padded and properly secured. Extra equipment, like balls, gym bags, and other gear, should be stored where they won't interfere with players going after loose balls.

Before Tip-Off

As with many sports, basketball requires running, jumping, and other athletic movements. Staying in good shape year-round will not only make kids better at these actions, it will help them reduce their risk of injury and improve stamina to allow them to play harder for longer periods of time. Make sure your kids get plenty of exercise before the season starts, and make sure they always try to eat a healthy diet.

Kids should warm up and stretch before playing. This doesn't mean just shooting a few hoops or dribbling with both hands. They should do some jumping jacks or run in place for a couple of minutes, then have a good stretching session, paying particular attention to the ankles, wrists, calves, and hamstrings.

Kids should practice shooting, dribbling, layups, and running the court before they try to duplicate these maneuvers during a game. Knowing what to do and how to do it will make movements less awkward and less prone to injury. And naturally, a player should know the rules and how to play safely before competing against others.

During Game Play

Once the ball is put in play, things will start to move quickly on the court. Knowing where teammates and opponents are at all times will help kids avoid potentially painful collisions.

Fouls are also a very common source of injuries. Many injuries can be avoided by playing within the rules, with no shoving, tripping, or holding, and always obeying the officials.

Make sure your kids know that if they get tired during the course of a game, they should ask to come out for a breather. Also make sure they know how to stay well hydrated. Heat stroke and dehydration are legitimate risks, particularly on sunny outdoor courts.

Kids who feel pain in any of joints or muscles should stop playing right away and not resume playing until the pain goes away or clearance is given by a doctor.

Lastly, a player should know where the ball is at all times. This may seem obvious, but many players get hurt by being hit with the ball when they aren't looking. Basketballs are hard enough to easily break a nose or a finger.

Excessive Play

With summer AAU programs, school and church leagues, travel teams, camps, and all-star games to choose from, lots of guys and girls spend the whole year playing basketball. This can lead to more than just burnout. Tendonitis in the wrist, knee, and ankle areas can become very painful and debilitating if untreated.

Encourage your child to always tell you or the coach when experiencing any pain in joints or muscles, and to never ignore any tweaks, spasms, or discomfort while playing. Prolonging stress-related injuries will only make them harder to recover from in the long run.

If you or your child feel that he or she is playing too much basketball, work with coaches to try a reduced or modified schedule.

A Few Other Reminders

  • If it's on-court and serious, make sure a responsible adult - be it a coach, parent, or referee - is on hand. Kids probably won't need adult supervision for games of one-on-one or two-on-two in your driveway or at the playground, but full-court, five-on-five basketball is a different story.
  • Make sure first-aid equipment is on hand - along with someone who knows how to use it.
  • Tell kids not to chew gum, toothpicks, or anything else while playing basketball. They could present a risk of choking.
  • Remind your kids to never fight with other players or teammates. This will not only get a kid kicked out of any sanctioned basketball game, it will also increase the likelihood of injury, not to mention embarrassment.

With all this in mind, kids can get out there on the court and have fun working on their skills and leading their team to victory. With a little forethought and some common sense and etiquette, they can stay safe and in the game.

 

Hockey

With non-stop action and high-speed team play, hockey is a great sport for kids. Sometimes called "the fastest game on ice," it's a great way to get exercise, and with youth and adult programs throughout the country, chances are no matter what your child's age or skill level, there is a league near you to play in.

As fun as it is, though, hockey carries a very real risk of injury. To keep your kids as safe as possible, follow these tips.

Why Hockey Safety Is Important

At its highest levels, from high school to college to the NHL, hockey allows "checking," an action that involves a player colliding with an opposing player to stop his forward momentum. This can lead to numerous injuries from players hitting one another or colliding with the ice surface or the boards that line the rink. Even in so-called "no-check" leagues, there will always be a lot of contact. Falls are very common, and ice is just as hard as concrete to land on.

In addition, with every player carrying a stick and wearing sharpened skates, accidents are bound to occur. There's also a good chance that sooner or later kids will get hit by the puck, which is made of hard rubber and can leave a nasty bruise if it catches them in the wrong spot. And, since hockey involves strenuous physical activity, pulled muscles and sprains are a hazard for players who don't warm up and stretch properly.

Getting In Gear

Before kids start playing hockey, it's very important to get them all the right equipment and make sure they know how to put it on and use it correctly. Skates and a helmet are a good place to start, but there is a lot more they'll need to wear to keep themselves safe.

Never let your child play a game of hockey without:

  • Helmet - When it comes to preventing serious injuries, this is the most important piece of equipment. Helmets should be certified by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) and should include a full facemask with a protective chin cup and a chin strap. Make sure to get your kids a helmet that fits properly, and insist that they always keep the chin strap fastened and tightened to ensure that the helmet stays in place.
  • Skates - As with helmets, be sure to get your kids skates that fit well. They're going to lace them up tight, so the wrong size skates can really hurt their feet. Skates should offer plenty of ankle support and have a steel or hard plastic toe cup. It's also important to keep skates sharp so they perform better and are less likely to get caught in ruts in the ice.
  • Shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee and shin pads - These are all specific to hockey. Soccer or lacrosse equipment won't give the protection needed. Lower leg (knee and shin) pads should have a hard plastic exterior and reach the top of your child's skates.
  • Hockey pants - Also called breezers, these should reach to the knee and offer padding in the front, rear, and sides of the upper legs and midsection.
  • Gloves - Another sport-specific item, hockey gloves should allow for mobility while protecting well past the wrist.
  • Athletic supporter and cup - These are incorporated into most hockey undershorts these days but can also come from other sports.
  • Neck protector - Although some leagues don't require them, neck protectors are helpful at guarding against wayward hockey sticks and skate blades.
  • Mouth guard - These not only protect the teeth, but also the lips, cheeks, and tongue, and can help prevent head and neck injuries such as concussions and jaw fractures.

Goalie Gear

Charged with putting their bodies between flying pucks and the goal, hockey goalies need a whole different set of equipment to keep themselves safe. Helmets, skates, neck guards and athletic protectors and cups are all different for goalies than they are for other positions.

In addition, goalies should always wear:

  • Leg pads - These should always be the correct length and be thick enough to protect against even the hardest slapshot.
  • Arm pads and chest protector - Arm pads should reach all the way to the wrist. Chest protectors should wrap slightly around the sides to keep a child's entire front well armored.
  • Blocker glove - This glove should allow your child's fingers to grip the stick easily but be very thick and cover most of the forearm.
  • Catcher glove - Similar to a first baseman's glove in baseball, catcher gloves should have thick padding over the wrist and palm and should also come well up the forearm.

Before the Puck Is Dropped

Everything kids do during a hockey game will be done while they are skating, so be sure they know how to skate well before they play a game. Most rinks offer learn-to-skate classes and open skating sessions when they can practice. Kids should know how to stop, turn, and get up when they fall. It's also helpful for them to know how to skate, stop, and turn while skating backwards.

Once you feel they're good enough skaters and they've got the proper equipment and know how to use it, they'll be ready to hit the ice. Before games, hockey players generally skate around the rink a few times to warm up. Kids should use this time to loosen up and stretch their muscles.

Important muscle groups to stretch before a game include:

  • Groin - Unlike walking or running, skating requires extending the legs to the side, which can put a lot of pressure on the groin. Kids can stretch out both sides while skating by dragging one foot behind them and getting as low to the ice as possible.
  • Back and torso - Shooting the puck, which your child will hopefully be doing a lot of, subjects midsections to a strenuous twisting motion that most people aren't used to doing. Trunk twists, while holding the stick behind their shoulders, and toe touches can also be done while skating around the rink.
  • Hamstrings - Have kids use the side boards of the rink to help themselves balance while they grab their ankles and pull their bent legs back behind them to stretch their hamstrings.

Keeping it Safe During a Game

There's a reason why tripping, hooking, slashing, high-sticking and cross-checking bring penalties. Hockey sticks can easily go from being a piece of equipment to being a dangerous weapon. Be sure that your kids know all the rules governing the use of sticks and follow them to the letter. You wouldn't want them to get hit by someone else's stick, and no one wants to get hit by theirs.

Other penalties designed to keep the game safe involve roughing, boarding, and checking from behind. These all have to do with players colliding with one another. If your kids' league allows checking, make sure they know the difference between a legal check and an illegal one, and be adamant that they never hit anyone from behind. If they play in a "no-check" league, it means just that: no checking.

As far as fighting is concerned, players in the NHL may throw off their gloves and start punching one another, but if your child does it, he or she can expect to pay a harsh penalty. Almost every youth league will kick players out of the game and suspend them for at least one more game for their first fighting penalty. They won't just be hurting themselves; they'll be letting their team down. Don't allow fighting of any kind.

Also, never let your kids play a game of hockey without adult supervision. Even if they follow every safety tip, accidents can still happen. There should always be a stocked first-aid kit and a responsible adult on hand in the event of an injury or other emergency. Likewise, be sure to have their games officiated by certified referees who are familiar with the specific rules of the league.

Pond Hockey

Playing a game of hockey with friends on a frozen pond can be lots of fun, but ponds present their own unique set of safety problems. An adult should always check the ice to make sure it's thick enough to support the weight of kids before they're allowed play, and they should stay away from any parts of the pond or lake where it looks like the ice may be thin. Tell your kids that if a puck goes in a suspect area, they should just let it go. They can always get another puck. It's not worth the risk of hypothermia or drowning for them to go after it.

Frozen ponds also go hand in hand with very cold temperatures. Be sure your kids wear plenty of warm clothing in addition to all their hockey gear anytime they play outdoors, and if they're playing on a sunny day, be sure they use sunscreen on their faces. The sun's rays reflecting off ice and snow can be very intense.

Now that you know the best ways to keep your kids safe, encourage them to get out there and hit the ice. Hockey is a great game that they'll want to play for as long as they can. Just remember that accidents and injuries can still occur no matter how prepared they are. Make sure your kids follow these tips, though, and you can minimize their risk significantly.

Skateboarding

Skateboarding's popularity has soared in the last few decades, and offshoots like longboarding and mountain-boarding are becoming more common.

But skateboarding also can be an easy way for kids to get hurt, particularly if they skate in the wrong place or don't wear protective gear. Scrapes and bruises are almost a fact of skateboarding life, and broken bones and sprains are also common.

To keep it safe while skateboarding, kids should follow these rules and safety tips.

Why Safety Is Important

More than 25,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for skateboard-related injuries every year. Some of those injuries are severe, and skateboarders have been killed by head injuries and collisions with cars.

Kids and beginners are the most likely to get hurt. More than half of skateboard injuries happen to people under the age of 15. One-third happen to those who have been skateboarding less than a week.

Experienced skaters get hurt, too. As the difficulty of tricks increases, so does the risk of injury, and things like rocks and poor riding surfaces are always a threat.

Gear Guidelines

It may seem like all that's needed to start skateboarding is a board and an attitude - until the first wipeout. Asphalt, concrete, wood, and other common riding surfaces have one thing in common: none are soft. Helmets are a must for all skateboarders, and all beginners should use pads until they gain more experience.

Here are some of the things a kid will need to get started:

  • Skateboard. Different boards do different things, and kids should have the right board for their activity. For mountain-boarding, a big board with knobby tires is best. In the park, the board should be considerably smaller. Make sure all the parts are in working order and check the board for cracks, sharp edges, damaged wheels, and loose parts before use.
  • Helmet. Get a helmet that is specifically meant for skateboarding, not some other activity. Look for a sticker inside the helmet saying it meets the ASTM F1492 skateboard helmet standard. All helmets should have a strong strap and buckle, and the strap should be securely fastened and snug any time your child rides.
  • Shoes. Skateboarding is tough on shoes, not to mention feet and ankles. Spend a little extra money and get a good pair of shoes made with leather or suede. Make sure the soles are made of grippy gum rubber, not regular shoe rubber, and make sure the shoes fit properly.
  • Pads. All beginners should start off with at least knee and elbow pads, which are recommended for riders of all levels. These should have a hard plastic shield and should not hinder your child's movements. All pads should be snug without constricting circulation.
  • Other Gear. Wrist guards, hip pads, skateboard gloves, and padded jackets and shorts are all available and are a good idea for beginners. Mouthguards are good protection against concussions and broken teeth.

Where to Ride

Where to ride may be the single most important decision skateboarders make, as far as safety is concerned. Rough riding surfaces are responsible for more than half of skateboarding injuries.

Initial skating will probably be in the driveway or a skate park. Wherever your child rides, make sure the area is free of rocks, sticks, and other objects. Teach your child to look out for potentially dangerous cracks in the surface before riding, and make sure there is no chance of an encounter with a car.

  • Skate parks. Kids should obey all rules governing use of the park and learn proper park etiquette before venturing into the park's more advanced features. Many skate parks have areas set aside for beginners. Kids should stick to this area or somewhere similarly easy when getting started.
  • Empty pools. Kids who have permission to use an empty pool should get familiar with the pool's surface before riding. If the pool has fallen into disrepair, it might be more hazard than fun.
  • Trails. When mountain-boarding, riders should inspect the trail before riding, looking for hazards like fallen trees.

The greatest threat to skateboarders is cars. Falls hurt, but they are rarely fatal. Collisions with large objects, however, can kill. Kids should never ride in the street.

Before Starting

The better shape kids are in, the better they'll be at all athletic activities, not just skateboarding. Encourage your kids to eat right and exercise frequently. They also should warm up and stretch before skating, especially their backs, legs and ankles.

Any place kids skate should be dry and cleared of anything that might interfere with the board's wheels.

Before they start skating, teach kids to be sure it's their turn and that no one is in the way. Collisions can happen if skaters don't communicate. And they should never ride with someone else on their skateboard. One rider per board, period.

While Riding

Kids will fall while skateboarding. That much is a given. To minimize injury, they should follow these tips:

  • Learning how to fall properly can help reduce the chances of injury. Kids should know that when they start to lose their balance, crouching down will mean they won't have as far to fall. They also should learn to try to land on the fleshy parts of their body and roll rather than breaking a fall with their arms and hands.
  • Bigger tricks and bigger features equal bigger injuries. Once kids have learned a couple of tricks, they should practice them a lot before moving on to more complicated maneuvers. They should leave the gnarly stuff to the experts until they're experienced enough to pull it off safely.
  • All riders should know and practice skateboarder etiquette. At a crowded skate park, this means waiting their turn instead of jumping blindly into the bowl. This will not only keep fights from breaking out, it will also help them avoid colliding with other skaters.

Other Rules to Discuss

Tell your young skateboarder:

  • Never hitch a ride from a bicycle, car, truck, bus, or other vehicle.
  • Don't take chances. That rail you want to slide may look cool, but is it worth knocking your teeth out? Be aware of all the consequences that could happen if things go wrong.
  • Be honest about your abilities. Don't attempt tricks that are too advanced for you. This may well save you some embarrassment as well as an injury or two. Practice what you know until you can do it in your sleep, and then move on to something new.
  • Talk to the people at the local skateboard shop when you buy your gear. Not only can they tell you how to get the most out of your gear, they usually also know good, safe places to ride.

Skateboarding is great way for kids to have fun and feel a sense of accomplishment. There's nothing like mastering a new trick to feel a surge of self-confidence and pride. With lots of practice and common safety sense, someday they might be the ones doing the kick-flips and spins and owning the skate park!

 

Skiing

Flying effortlessly down a snow-covered slope, feeling the wind in your face and soaking up the beautiful mountain scenery - there's a lot to love about skiing. It's a sport that kids can learn at a young age and continue doing for the rest of their lives, and it can take them to some of the most spectacular places on Earth.

But skiing can also present some very real dangers, from frostbite and sunburn to blown knees and head injuries. Make sure your kids follow these safety tips to learn how to stay safe on the slopes.

Why Skiing Safety Is Important

Skiing involves moving at very high speeds down steep hills past other skiers and natural and man-made obstacles. Falls, some of the spectacular variety, are going to happen, regardless of how good a skier someone may be, and collisions are relatively common. Also, since skiing takes place at high altitudes in the winter, the weather can range from sunny and bright to bitterly cold, with conditions changing rapidly from one slope to the next and from one hour to the next.

The skier safety code, which is printed on virtually every lift ticket and posted in numerous places around every ski area, lists some of the "inherent dangers and risks of skiing, including: changing weather conditions; existing and changing snow conditions; bare spots; rocks; stumps; trees; collisions with natural objects, man-made objects, or other skiers; variations in terrain; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities." That's a pretty fair assessment of some of the dangers kids will encounter while skiing.

Gearing Up

Before kids venture out to the slopes, it's essential for them to have the right gear and know how to use it. In addition to skis, boots, and poles, they will also need warm clothing, protective eyewear and helmets intended specifically for skiing or snowboarding.

Here's a list of what kids should bring each time they head up the mountain:

  • Skis - As a general rule, the larger a ski is, the faster it goes and the harder it is to control. Be sure to buy or rent skis that are appropriate for your child's skiing ability, and have them fitted and tuned by a trained professional at a ski shop.
  • Bindings - These should also only be adjusted by a trained professional at a ski shop. It's very important for bindings to be able to release in the event of a fall to prevent leg injuries, but bindings that release too easily can cause falls of their own.
  • Boots - As the connecting point to the skis, boots are a vital piece of equipment. Make sure to get kids boots that fit correctly to keep their feet comfortable and warm, and to provide the best control over their skis. Boots should always be buckled up snugly to give feet and ankles the support they need.
  • Poles - These should always be the right length and have looped straps that go around the wrists. To check if poles are the right length, turn one upside down and have your child hold it by the tip, with a hand resting on the basket. The child's elbow should be at a right angle with the handle of the pole touching the ground.
  • Helmet - As is the case with many sports, a helmet is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to preventing life-threatening injuries. Kids should wear one any time they go skiing. Get them a helmet that fits properly, and make sure they keep the chin strap fastened to keep it securely in place. Also, make sure to get your child a real ski helmet (not a football or bike helmet) that allows space for goggles and ventilation on warm days.
  • Goggles and sunglasses - The sun's rays are considerably stronger at high altitudes than they are at sea level, and when they bounce off the gleaming white snow, they can be a serious threat to the eyes. Sunglasses are the best way to protect eyes from the sun's rays, but kids should also always bring a pair of goggles that are the right size in case it gets cold or begins to snow. Goggles are also better at protecting eyes from tree branches and other hazards.
  • Gloves or mittens - Ski gloves should allow kids' fingers to move freely to grip their poles, but the gloves' most important job is to keep fingers warm. With that in mind, many gloves include pockets for hand warmers. If you're still worried about your child's hands getting cold, however, it's a good idea to get mittens, which are generally warmer than gloves.

Dress for Excess

As anyone who has skied on a cold day can tell you, it's no fun if you don't have enough warm clothing. Likewise, on hot days having too many clothes can make kids sweat, which will lead to them getting cold when the sun dips behind a cloud or the mountains. The best way to tackle this situation is to dress kids in layers that they can shed or put on depending on the temperature.

Here's a rundown on what sort of clothes your kids should wear when skiing to avoid hypothermia and frostbite:

  • Thermal underwear - As with all ski clothing, long underwear should be made of wool or a synthetic fabric such as polypropylene rather than cotton, which will stay wet and cold if it gets wet. The best long johns will fit snugly against kids' skin to form a warm base layer that their outer layers can fit over easily.
  • Thermal socks - Thicker is not necessarily better when it comes to socks. A sock that is too thick will make boots too tight, which will make kids' feet uncomfortable and cold. Choose socks that are the right thickness for your kids' boots and reach up their legs to just below the knees.
  • Intermediate layers - Fleeces made from wool or synthetic fabrics work best. Try to find ones that aren't too bulky to fit under your child's jacket.
  • Ski pants - These should be the right size while allowing kids' legs to move freely. Be sure to get them pants that are waterproof or water-resistant.
  • Jacket - The best jackets will have plenty of pockets to store gear. Many people like down jackets, which tend to be the warmest kind, but thin shells with extra intermediate layers can work just as well. As with ski pants, all ski jackets should be waterproof or water-resistant.
  • Neck gaiter - On really cold days, you'll want your kids to have a gaiter that covers their neck and can be pulled up to cover their face. The best ones will also have a hood to go under their helmet. Remember, people lose a lot of heat through the top of their heads, so keeping your child's head warm is the first step to keeping the rest of the body warm.

 

Sledding

Sledding with friends and family members has been a winter ritual for generations. Anywhere there's snow and a hillside, you can find people sledding. You probably went sledding as a kid, and you'll want to share this fun activity with your kids.

But sledding can also cause injuries, some of them pretty serious. To keep your kids safe while sledding, make sure they follow these safety tips.

Why Sledding Safety Is Important

Though it may seem like harmless fun, sledding injuries send tens of thousands of kids to hospital emergency rooms each year. More than half of all sledding injuries are head injuries, which can be very serious and even deadly. Statistics also show that sledders are more likely to be injured in collisions than skiers or snowboarders.

Choose the Right Sledding Hill

When hills get coated with snow, they may all look like great locations for sledding, but be very careful when choosing a location for your kids to sled. Not all hills are safe.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when it comes to picking the right spot to sled:

  • Select a hill that is not too steep and has a long flat area at the bottom for your kids to glide to a stop.
  • Avoid hillsides that end near a street or parking lot.
  • Avoid hillsides that end near ponds, trees, fences, or other hazards.
  • Make sure the hill is free of obstacles such as jumps, bumps, rocks, or trees before your kids begin sledding.
  • Choose hills that are snowy rather than icy. If a child falls off a sled, icy slopes make for hard landings.
  • Always try to have your kids sled during the daytime, when visibility is better. If they do go sledding at night, make sure the hillside is well lit and all potential hazards are visible.

Dress for Cold Temperatures

Since sledding involves playing in the snow outdoors during wintertime, chances are it's going to be cold. Frostbite and even hypothermia are potential dangers. Make sure your kids wear the proper clothing to stay warm and safe.

  • Kids should wear sensible winter clothing - hats, gloves or mittens, snow pants, winter jacket, snow boots - that is waterproof and warm, and change into something dry if their clothes get wet.
  • Don't let kids wear scarves or any clothing that can get caught in a sled and pose a risk of strangulation.
  • Make your kids wear helmets, particularly if they're 12 or under. There is no such thing as a sledding helmet, so choose a helmet designed for high-speed impact. Ski helmets work best, but if you don't have one, make sure they at least wear a bike helmet or something similar.

Get the Right Kind of Sled

The best sleds can be steered by their riders and have brakes to slow them down. Avoid sleds that can't be steered, such as saucers or plastic toboggans, and never use a sled substitute like an inner tube, lunch tray, or cardboard box. Good sleds are relatively cheap to buy and are well worth the extra money.

Some Simple Safety Rules

Your kids have the right kind of sled and helmets, they're dressed warmly, and you've picked out a perfect hill for them to sled down. They're ready to go.

There are still a few rules they need to follow, though, to keep themselves and other sledders safe:

  • Be sure a responsible adult is present to supervise. In the event someone does get injured, there should always be an adult on hand to administer first aid and, if necessary, take the injured sledder to the emergency room.
  • Young kids (5 and under) should sled with an adult, and kids under 12 should be actively watched at all times.
  • Children should always sit face-forward on their sleds. Never let them sled down a hill backwards or while standing, and make sure they don't go down the hill face-first, as this greatly increases the risk of a head injury.
  • Insist that kids go down the hill one at a time and with only one person per sled (except for adults with young kids). Piling more than one person on a sled just means there are more things on the hill that they can collide with.
  • Don't let kids build an artificial jump or obstacle on a sledding hill.
  • Remind kids to keep their arms and legs within the sled at all times. If they fall off the sled, tell them to move out of the way. Teach them that if they're on a sled that won't stop, to roll off it and get away from it.
  • Make kids walk up the side of the hill and leave the middle open for other sledders.
  • Never allow a child to ride a sled that is being pulled by a moving vehicle.

While it's unlikely that kids will be injured while sledding, the possibility definitely exists. Just take a little extra time to dress them properly and make sure they follow these safety guidelines. They'll have a better time, and you'll rest easier knowing you have less to worry about. Sledding is supposed to be fun; keep your kids safe and warm, and you'll ensure that it is!

 

Snowboarding

Like surfing down a frozen white wave, snowboarding is a great way for kids to have fun and get exercise during those cold winter months. It's relatively easy to learn, and it can take them to some of the most spectacular places on Earth.

But snowboarding can also present some very real dangers, from frostbite and sunburn to blown knees and head injuries. Have your kids follow these safety tips to learn how to stay safe on the slopes.

Why Snowboarding Safety Is Important

Snowboarding involves moving at very high speeds down steep hills past other skiers and boarders, as well as natural and man-made obstacles. Falls, some of the spectacular variety, are going to happen, regardless of how good a boarder your child may be, and collisions are relatively common. Also, since snowboarding takes place at high altitudes in the winter, the weather can range from sunny and bright to bitterly cold, with conditions changing rapidly from one slope to the next and from one hour to the next.

The skier and snowboarder safety code, which is printed on virtually every lift ticket and posted in numerous places around every ski area, lists some of the "inherent dangers and risks of skiing [and snowboarding], including: changing weather conditions; existing and changing snow conditions; bare spots; rocks; stumps; trees; collisions with natural objects, man-made objects, or other skiers; variations in terrain; and the failure of skiers to ski within their own abilities." That's a pretty fair assessment of some of the dangers kids will encounter while snowboarding.

Gearing Up

Before your kids venture out to the slopes, it's very important for them to have the right gear and know how to use it. In addition to a snowboard and boots, they will also need warm clothing, protective eyewear and helmets intended specifically for snowboarding or skiing.

Here's a list of what kids should bring each time they head up the mountain:

  • Snowboard - In general, an all-mountain snowboard is the best bet for beginners, rather than a specialty board, which is harder to turn and balance on. Also, the longer a board is, the more difficult it will be to control. Choose a board that is the right length for your child's size and snowboarding ability.
  • Boots - As the connecting point to the snowboard, boots are a vital piece of equipment. Make sure to get your kids real snowboard boots (not moonboots or hiking boots) that fit correctly to keep their feet comfortable and warm. For most beginner snowboarders, soft snowboard boots are easier to control than hard boots. Make sure kids keep their boots laced up tight to give their feet and ankles the support they need.
  • Bindings - Most snowboard bindings are of the strap-on variety, which are compatible with the greatest number of boots. Kids should always keep their straps securely fastened to give them the most control over their snowboards. Some bindings, though, are step-in types. Make sure to get the right bindings for your kids' boots, and have a trained professional at a snowboard shop adjust the angle of the bindings to put their feet in the right positions.
  • Helmet - As is the case with many sports, a helmet is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to preventing life-threatening injuries. Kids should wear one any time they go boarding. Get them a helmet that fits properly, and make sure they know to keep the chin strap fastened to keep it securely in place. Also, make sure to get a real snowboard helmet (not a football or bike helmet) that allows space for their goggles and ventilation on warm days.
  • Goggles and sunglasses - The sun's rays are considerably stronger at high altitudes than they are at sea level, and when they bounce off the gleaming white snow, they can be a serious threat to the eyes. Sunglasses are the best way to protect eyes from the sun's rays, but they should also always bring a pair of goggles that are the right size in case it gets cold or begins to snow. Goggles are also better at protecting eyes from tree branches and other hazards.
  • Gloves or mittens - Many snowboard gloves include pockets for hand warmers to keep fingers nice and toasty. If you're still worried about your child's hands getting cold, however, it's a good idea to get mittens, which are generally warmer than gloves.
  • Wrist guards - When kids first learn how to snowboard, they'll spend a lot of time falling forward and breaking their falls with their hands. This can lead to broken wrists and forearms, which are very common snowboarding injuries. Be sure your kids wear rigid wrist guards designed for snowboarding or in-line skating to protect themselves when they fall.

Dress for Excess

As anyone who has snowboarded on a cold day can tell you, it's no fun if you don't have enough warm clothing. Likewise, on hot days having too many clothes can make kids sweat, which will lead to them getting cold when the sun dips behind a cloud or the mountains. The best way to tackle this situation is to have kids dress in layers that they can shed or put on depending on the temperature.

Here's a rundown on what sort of clothes they should wear when they snowboard to avoid hypothermia and frostbite:

  • Thermal underwear - As with all snowboard clothing, long underwear should be made of wool or a synthetic fabric such as polypropylene rather than cotton, which will stay wet and cold if it gets wet. The best long johns will fit snugly against the skin to form a warm base layer that their outer layers can fit over easily.
  • Thermal socks - Thicker is not necessarily better when it comes to socks. A sock that is too thick will make boots too tight, which will make feet uncomfortable and cold. Choose socks that are the right thickness for your kids' boots and reach up their legs to just below the knee.
  • Intermediate layers - Fleeces made from wool or synthetic fabrics work best. Try to find ones that aren't too bulky to fit under your child's jacket.
  • Snowboard pants - These should be the right size while allowing kids' legs to move freely. It can also be helpful, especially when they're learning to snowboard and falling on their rear ends a lot, to get pants with a little extra padding in the seat. Be sure to get them pants that are waterproof or water-resistant.
  • Jacket - The best jackets will have plenty of pockets to store gear. Many people like down jackets, which tend to be the warmest kind, but thin shells with extra intermediate layers can work just as well. As with snowboard pants, all snowboard jackets should be waterproof or water-resistant.
  • Neck gaiter - On really cold days, you'll want kids to have a gaiter that covers their neck and can be pulled up to cover their face. The best ones will also have a hood to go under their helmet. Remember, people lose a lot of heat through the top of their heads, so keeping your child's head warm is the first step to keeping the rest of the body warm.

Additional Items

While kids should always have the gear and clothing mentioned above, here are a number of other items they might want to consider bringing with them when they snowboard.

  • Hand warmers - These inexpensive packets are available at almost every ski or snowboard shop and will help keep fingers warm for hours.
  • Boot warmers - Battery-operated and great for keeping toes warm, boot warmers can be installed quickly at most ski or snowboard shops.
  • Walkie-talkies - These are great for keeping in touch with your kids if they head off to board on different trails, and if they get lost, a walkie-talkie will make it much easier to find them.
  • Sunscreen - Even on cloudy days it's possible to get a bad sunburn while snowboarding. Always rub sunscreen on exposed skin if kids plan to be outside for any length of time.
  • Lip balm - While this may not be necessary at Eastern ski areas, the climate in the West is very dry, and your child's lips will get chapped without protection.
  • Water and food - While it may look like gravity is doing all the work, snowboarding is actually a very strenuous activity. Kids can get fatigued and dehydrated easily, particularly at higher altitudes, so it's always a good idea for them to carry water, and a quick snack will help them get some energy back if they find their muscles getting tired.

Before They Make Their First Turns

One of the most effective ways to prevent injuries while snowboarding is to make sure your kids are in good shape before they go. Stronger muscles will not only help them maintain control, they'll also make boarding more fun. If you know your kids will be hitting the slopes in the winter, make sure they get regular exercise in the summer and fall. They'll be glad they did. And make sure they stretch before they start snowboarding.

When you get to the ski resort, if your kids have never boarded before - or even if they have - sign them up for snowboard lessons. Even the best athletes in the world can't board on their own the first time out. The best way to learn is from a trained instructor certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA). Private lessons will give kids the most one-on-one time with an instructor, but less-expensive group lessons work very well too and are an opportunity to make some new friends.

A Note on the Snowboarder's Blind Spot

One major difference between snowboarding and skiing is that kids will be facing sideways when they board. This creates a blind spot behind them. Let them know that they should always be aware of who or what is around them at all times, and they should be certain there are no other boarders, skiers, or obstacles in their blind spot before they make a heel-edge turn.

This is particularly important for beginner snowboarders. It can be hard for them to take their focus off the slope ahead to make sure it's safe to turn, but it is vital that they make the effort each and every time they do. Collisions are not just painful, they can also lead to costly lawsuits.

Be Smart on the Slopes

So, your kids are in shape, they've got all the right equipment and clothing, and they've taken a few lessons. They're finally ready to go boarding on their own.

There are still a few important things for them to remember to keep themselves safe, though:

  • Always board with a friend - No matter how good a snowboarder your child is, it's possible to have a bad fall and be unable to continue boarding. Having a friend to look out for them and, if necessary, summon the ski patrol is much safer than boarding alone.
  • Know your limits - Make sure your kids are aware of and honest about their snowboarding ability. If they're beginners, they should stick to the beginner slopes until they feel comfortable enough to move up to something steeper. Most ski trails are clearly marked as green circles (beginner terrain), blue squares (intermediate terrain), or black diamonds (advanced terrain). If a trail says it's for experts only, it means just that. Boarding terrain that is beyond their ability is not only no fun, it's also a good way for them to hurt themselves.
  • Follow the rules - Insist that your kids know to never venture past the ski area boundary or board into a closed area. These areas are off-limits for a reason. They're not patrolled by the ski patrol, and they usually contain hazards that your kids won't want to deal with. Also, make sure they pay attention to any warning signs they might see. If a sign says, "Slow skiing area," they'll want to go slow to avoid other skiers and boarders. If a sign says, "Cliff," they'll want to go another way or stop before they go over the edge.
  • Practice snowboarder etiquette - Kids need to remember that skiers and boarders in front of them or below them on the trail have the right of way. Tell them to never stop in the middle of a trail or anywhere where they can't be seen from above, such as below a dropoff. They should also look uphill to make sure no one is coming toward them before they start down a trail or merge onto a new trail. If they're passing another skier or boarder on a catwalk or narrow trail, have them call out "On your right" or "On your left" to let people know they're approaching.