Staying Safe During Physical Activity
Important safety equipment includes:
- Helmets prevent or reduce the risk of brain or head injuries and should be worn for the following sports: football, bicycling, auto or motor sports, baseball, skateboarding, riding horses, in-skating, softball, lacrosse, skiing, wrestling, boxing and snowmobiling.
- Wrist guards, knee and/or elbow pads are important for shock absorption from falls, especially for elbows and knees and can also prevent scrapes, cuts and abrasions due to falls. They should be worn for the following sports: in-line skating, bicycling, hockey, wrestling, soccer, basketball, volleyball, skateboarding.
- Shin guards prevent lower leg injury and should be worn by all soccer players.
- Mouth guards protect the mouth, teeth, tongue and cheeks from blows caused by contact sports. Mouth guards are recommended for all contact sports, such as football, hockey, rugby, basketball, boxing, wrestling.
- Face guards protect the face of baseball players. They are intended for batters and for catchers to protect their faces.
- Chest guards are for baseball players to protect batters from chest injury due to ball impact. Ball impact was the most common cause of baseball related death in children.
- Hockey face protectors protect hockey players from injury from the puck or hockey stick.
- Athletic supporter protects male players who participate in contact sports.
Besides not wearing the proper protective equipment, there are other ways that one can put themselves out of action while exercising or participating in sports.
- Wearing the proper shoes: Nearly every sport requires a specific shoe. For example, basketball players need extra ankle support for all of the lateral movements, and runners need extra cushioning for shock absorption. It is important to have a sports specific shoe if you participate in a specific activity.
- Sun protection: Whenever you are exercising outdoors, you are exposed to ultraviolet light. In order to protect your skin and eyes from sun damage, it is important to wear sunscreen and sun glasses. This applies for hot or cold weather. A waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher will give adequate protection from the sun's rays.
- Dressing appropriately for weather: During warm weather, it is important to wear loose fitting, light colored clothing that is made of cotton rather than nylon. Cotton absorbs water quickly and is not irritating to the skin. In cold weather, it is important to wear several layers of clothing. The clothing should be loose fitting. Always cover your head. Remove wet clothing immediately. Apply an oil-based ointment (Vaseline) to lips, cheeks and nose to reduce heat loss from face.
Hot Weather Risks
- Dehydration. The loss of body fluids occurs when the loss of body water (perspiration) exceeds the amount taken in. It only takes a loss of 10 percent of the body's normal water content to cause serious problems. Drinking lots of water and fluids is the best way to combat this problem. Heat Cramps: These cramps are caused by a lot of sweating. Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs and mid-section. One must stop activity and drink plenty of water in order to recover. If not, it will lead to heat exhaustion.
- Heat Exhaustion. Exhaustion is caused by excessive fluid loss. Increased sweating, high body temperature, cool wet skin and some lack of coordination are signs of heat exhaustion. To treat: one needs to stop all activity, drink lots of water and get medical treatment, or it could lead to heat stroke.
- Heat Stroke. Heat stroke is extremely serious and can be fatal. Symptoms include: inability to sweat, hot and dry skin, fast breathing, seizures. Requires immediate medical attention.
Cold Weather Risks
- Frostbite. In frostbite, body parts, especially the fingers, toes and nose, become frozen, which can eventually lead to the destruction of the tissue. Signs include numbness and pale grayish discoloration in the skin. Frostbite can lead to loss of a body part. The victim should get out of the cold to a warm area and get medical attention.
- Hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the inner body temperature becomes dangerously low as a result of prolonged exposure to the cold. Symptoms include: shivering, fatigue, slurred speech, loss of coordination and blueness of skin. Other signs include a very low heart rate, slowed breathing and low body temperature. The victim should receive medical attention as soon as possible.
- Have a physical exam before starting a sport.
- Never engage in sports without proper instruction.
- Don't stretch to the point of pain.
- Be in shape before the first day of practice.
- Begin training slowly.
- Always warm-up before practice and cool-down after practice.
- Drink lots of water before, during and after an activity.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Eat well in order to fuel your body and prevent injuries.
More than 200,000 children had to go to the emergency room last year because they were hurt on playgrounds. The following guidelines help keep children safe on the playground.
- Always wear shoes such as sneakers on a playground. Never go barefoot or wear sandals. Hazards include stepping on something like a nail, stubbing a foot or toe, being stepped on by someone else, or something falling on the foot. Shoes protect feet from getting hurt.
- Don't play on slippery or wet surfaces. It is very dangerous to play on playground equipment when it is wet, because you could fall and hurt yourself.
- Don't force body parts into small spaces. If people try to fit into spaces that are too tight or too small for them, they could get stuck. Never try to put bodies, arms, fingers, or any body parts into any small spaces.
- Don't play on hot metal surfaces. Playing on hot metal surfaces such as a slide can burn in the same way a stove can burn. Play before it gets really hot in the day or after the sun begins to go down, so the equipment is not exposed to direct sunlight.
- Don't cross in front or behind a person swinging. Walking in front of or behind someone who is swinging can be very dangerous, because you could be knocked down and hurt. The person swinging cannot stop and so might run into you.
- When playing on a seesaw, only get off of the seesaw when BOTH you and your partner have your feet on the ground. Otherwise, one of you might get hurt.
- Never push or pull others while playing on equipment. You could fall off of the equipment and get hurt, or someone else could fall off the equipment and get hurt.
Protection from the Environment during Physical Activity
Humans can tolerate only small internal temperature variations. To maintain health, the body temperature must be kept within very narrow limits-neither too hot nor too cold. The term thermoregulation refers to the regulation of body temperature.
Hot Weather Risks
Exercise causes the core body temperature to rise, and it rises even more when exercising in hot conditions. To combat this rise in temperature, the body initiates its cooling mechanisms to protect people from overheating. The production and evaporation of sweat is the major cooling mechanism for the body, allowing heat from the body to be transferred to the environment as the water is vaporized and thereby evaporated. The body also redistributes blood to the surface of the body, which causes the skin to appear red and flushed. Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing that is made of cotton rather than nylon is a better choices for exercise during hot weather. Cotton absorbs water quickly and is not irritating to the skin.
Hot weather risks include:
- heat cramps
- heat exhaustion
- heat stroke
Dehydration is a loss of body fluids. It occurs when the loss of body water (perspiration) exceeds the amount of water or fluids taken in. It only takes a loss of 10 percent of the body's normal water content to cause serious problems. Drinking lots of water and fluids is the best way to combat dehydration.
Heat cramps are caused by sweating. Heat cramps are painful involuntary muscle spasms in the arms, legs and mid-section. The cramps are thought to be due to a sodium and potassium imbalance in the muscle. Treatment includes stopping the activity, drinking plenty of water or fluids and electrolyte replacement. Salting food and eating a balanced diet can help restore electrolyte balance.
Heat exhaustion is caused by excessive fluid loss. Increased sweating, high body temperature, cool wet skin and some lack of coordination are signs of heat exhaustion. To treat heat exhaustion, you must stop all activity, drink lots of water and get medical treatment, or it could lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke is extremely serious and may be fatal. Symptoms include: inability to sweat, hot and dry skin, fast breathing, seizures. It requires immediate medical attention.
Cold Weather Risks
Exercise brings about a warming effect, which, consequently, allows people to tolerate colder temperatures. However, particular body parts are susceptible to cold weather, especially the hands and head, which must be protected to avoid excessive heat loss. Covering the head is especially important, because a large proportion of heat loss can come from this area of the body.
In cold weather, wearing several layers of clothing helps people maintain a comfortable body temperature. The clothing should be loose fitting, and the head should be covered. Wet clothing should be removed immediately. An oil-based ointment (Vaseline) applied to lips, cheeks and nose helps reduce heat loss from face.
Cold weather risks include:
Frostbite occurs when body parts, especially the fingers, toes and nose, become frozen. It may eventually lead to the destruction of tissue and the loss of body parts. Signs include numbness and pale grayish discoloration in the skin. Victims should get out of the cold to a warm area and get medical attention.
Hypothermia occurs when the inner body temperature becomes dangerously low as a result of prolonged exposure to the cold. Symptoms include: shivering, fatigue, slurred speech, loss of coordination and blueness of skin. Other signs include a very low heart rate, slowed breathing and low body temperature. The victim should receive medical attention as soon as possible.
Pollutants are also an environmental risk for exercisers. Many people live in urban environments, where there is a higher amount of air pollution. Pollutants such as carbon monoxide (gas emitted by cars) can limit the amount of oxygen that is carried in the blood, affecting the ability to do aerobic exercise. Ozone, another pollutant, can also irritate eyes and cause chest pain that can interfere with aerobic exercise. It is best to avoid exercising outdoors during the times of day when the pollutants are at their highest levels-usually mid- to late afternoon.
Whenever people are outdoors, they are exposed to ultraviolet light. Sunscreen and sunglasses help protect the skin and eyes from sun damage and should be used during hot or cold weather. A waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher provides adequate protection from the sun's rays for most people.