Physical Education: Dangerous Play? Part 3

Children as young as 6 are playing in football leagues, she said. Thats all right, if the coaches know how to provide good training and keep them from being hurt. But she says, competition should be based on size and weight, not on age, and its important that helmets, shoulder pads and other equipment be properly fitted and in good condition.

The most important thing, she says, is to teach youngsters that they are not expected to keep on playing if they have been injured. If youre hurt, step out should be the rule.

Like Williams, Dortch is concerned about how violent games like football instill competitiveness in kids.

Why are we doing it? she wondered. I think parents are being more competitive. Perhaps they want to relive their lives through their kids. Kids think they have to please their parents, but I dont approve of parents forcing kids. They should make sure the kids want to do these things. Shed much rather see youngsters playing games like softball, tennis and volleyball than heavy contact sports.

Pre-Participation Physicals
A Mayo Clinic specialist in sports medicine says it is important that young athletes have pre-participation physical exams (PPEs) before they suit up. Douglas Petersen, MD, of the Mayo unit in Scottsdale, Arizona, said many youngsters worry about the exams, but they shouldnt.

The PPE is not meant to disqualify kids from playing sports, but to be sure that they can safely play a sport they want to play, he said. If they are advised not to play a particular sport, the exam should help them find a more appropriate activity.

Very few apparently healthy young people have a medical condition that will disqualify them from all sports, but it is not uncommon to need to look at alternatives to the sport of first choice because of physical limitations, he said.

The main things a doctor looks for are physical problems that could limit a childs participation, or make him or her more liable to be injured. In addition to routine tests of the heart, lungs, blood pressure and pulse, doctors will ask about the childs health and that of his or her family, and check for problems like asthma.

A Mayo study of 2,739 high school athletes who had PPEs performed at the Mayo Clinic, found that muscle, joint and bone problems were the most common reason for not passing. Old injuries that had not healed or had not been treated properly were usually responsible.

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