How to Play It Safe

Posted on April 6, 2011


Nearly three-quarters of U.S. households with school-age children have at least one child who plays in organized sports. Still more children participate in recreational activities such as bicycling, inline skating, riding scooters and skateboarding.  Unfortunately, more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under suffer medically-treated sports injuries each year, and nearly half of bike-related hospitalizations are diagnosed as traumatic brain injury.  However, sports and recreation-related injuries can be prevented!  Protective equipment, safer playing environments, and rules designed to prevent injury can keep kids safe while they play.


In our ongoing efforts to celebrate National Public Health Week, here are some tips from our friends at the Injury Prevention Program on how to avoid injuries while at play.


Helmets & Wheeled Sports Safety

  • The most effective way to reduce head injury and death from bicycle crashes is to provide helmets and insist that children wear them every time they ride a bike, in-line skate, skateboard, or scooter.

  • Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent.

  • Massachusetts law requires any person under 17 years old to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle, a skateboard, a scooter, or in-line skating.

  • Look for the CPSC certification on helmets.  This is the U.S. government safety standard for helmet design and integrity.

  • Correct fit is essential.  Helmets do not provide the best protection unless they are properly secured.

  • The Injury Prevention Program works to reduce the risk of head injury by providing low-cost helmets to the community in Boston.  Helmets for $5.00 are available at the Boston Medical Center Gift Shop.  Organizations can also place orders for helmets (at $5.00 per unit cost) to be delivered on site for individual distribution or for health fairs and local events.  To request discounted helmets, complete and return the following application


Bicycling Rules of the Road

  • Ride with traffic, not against it. Ride as far to the right as possible.

  • Use appropriate hand signals.

  • Respect traffic signals. Stop at all stop signs and red lights.

  • Stop and look left, right and left again before entering a street.

  • Look back and yield to traffic coming from behind before turning left at intersections.

  • Don’t ride when it’s dark. If riding at dusk, dawn or in the evening is unavoidable, wear retroreflective material on clothing or bike, and use lights on the bike.

  • Cyclists should be restricted to sidewalks and paths until they reach the age of 10 and can demonstrate they know the rules of the road. Supervision is essential until children develop the necessary traffic skills and judgment.


Bicycle Fit & Maintenance

  • Check that the tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.

  • Make sure the brakes work properly and gears shift smoothly.

  • Bikes should have a light and securely attached reflectors on the front, back and sides.

  • Child’s feet should reach the ground while sitting on the bike seat.


Sports Safety

  • Before beginning a sport, all children should receive a general health exam and an orthopedic exam.

  • Make sure children always wear appropriate safety gear and equipment that fits properly. Protective gear is sport-specific and may include mouth guards, shin pads, helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, safety goggles, etc.

  • Ensure that children warm up and stretch before playing.

  • Make sure kids drink adequate liquids prior to, during, and following athletic activities.

  • Kids should play under the supervision of a coach and a certified athletic trainer.  If a trainer is not available, make sure coach is certified in CPR and has a first aid kit on hand.

  • Prepare for an emergency by providing every child’s coach with important information: parents’ or caregivers’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and any medical conditions or allergies affecting the athlete.

If you need any more recourses or information, call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.