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Organized sports can be a great way for children to socialize and keep fit, but they are not all fun and games, health officials say. Participation carries the risk of physical injuries, and the pressure of competition can sometimes take a mental toll on children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that at least twenty percent of emergency room visits stem from injuries suffered while participating in sports, recreation or exercise, and forty percent of those visits involve children younger than 15.

Here are some guidelines you need to know before your son or daughter takes the field:

   - First, make sure your child wants to play the sport. Choosing a sport and deciding how long to stick with it should be the child's choice, because the sport loses its fun when motivation does not come from within. Parents must recognize the difference between healthy encouragement and pushing too hard so that they are more responsive to the child's mental needs.

   - Make sure your child can keep up with the physical and mental demands of the sport. Your child should undergo a physical before beginning a sport. The exam can pinpoint your child's physical strengths and weaknesses, which might help steer him or her toward a particular sport. It might also reveal a condition in your child that you should prepare to deal with, such as asthma. It is also important to know how competitive the sports league is. Is it the sort of league where everyone plays, or is it play-to-win? Additionally, if the physical challenge of the sport is more than the child can handle, it can place a pressure that may be too intense for some kids.

   - Find out if the coaches are certified in CPR and other types of first aid. If not, parents should arrange for basic care at practices and games. In addition to a first aid kit, gather an up-to-date medical history for each player and contact numbers for parents, and prepare an emergency plan.

   - Know how your child's sports league handles environmental risks. The league should follow accepted guidelines for dealing with bad weather.

   - Make sure the setting is suitable for play. Playing on asphalt or concrete can be risky.

   - Ensure children take water breaks.

   - Get the appropriate protective gear and make sure your child wears it.

   - Encourage children to warm up before playing and cool down afterward.

   - Set a good example by practicing good sportsmanship.

Make sure the kids are having fun!!!

Playing it Safe: A Checklist for Parents