Ask the You Docs: How to protect your kids while they play sports

King Features SydicateMay 4, 2013 

Q: My 10-year-old son is enthusiastic about playing baseball. But I hear so much about potential injuries to kids his age, so I'm worried. What protection should he have?

MAUDE F., SCRANTON, PA.

A: Starting kids out with proper equipment and knowledge of how to play well AND protect themselves from harm has big payoffs. Not only are they safer when they're young, but by the time they get into high school, they won't feel comfortable playing without protective equipment.

• At home plate, younger players tend to get injuries around the eyes. Kids under age 12 need a protective face shield on their batting helmet.

• Catchers that age need specific equipment: top-grade masks, groin and chest protectors, shin guards, etc.

• Pitchers need to learn how to play defense (square-up) immediately after they pitch. This cuts down on injuries when the ball is hit back at them. PLUS: No pitcher under age 16 should throw a curveball. Since bones, muscles and connective tissues are not fully developed, overuse injuries to shoulders and elbows are common.

• If you have girls playing sports, they need protection - including for the chest and groin areas.

• Make sure everyone is on their toes. Foul balls and flying bats cause injuries.

• Don't forget the importance of warming up and stretching.

Kids need lots of exercise, so don't let your worries keep your child from playing ball. Just make sure he has the proper equipment and that you're teaching him good mechanics.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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