While the summer officially begins on June 21st, those of us with kids see things a little differently. For us, the first day of summer is the day after the last day of school. Most of our kids can look forward to at least three months without homework, classes or exams to worry about, and can devote their free time to sports, hobbies, or that wonderful youthful pastime of doing nothing at all. Summer brings with it camps, swimming pools, little league, soccer, skateboards, bicycles, in-line skates, basketball, tennis, and, especially here in our area, trips to the beach. And with the increase in physical activity, there is inevitably an increase in physical injuries.

According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, the summer of 2004 was a banner year for warm weather sports related injuries that required some form of medical treatment. These numbers all affected people under the age of 20.

Basketball topped the list with 1,018,619 injuries. This isn’t really surprising considering that you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to play, and basketball courts are readily available.

Bicycling finished second with 820,789 injuries.This might seem surprising to adults who ride bicycles either for exercise or to simply get from place to place, but children often like to race or jump their bikes off of ramps or curbs.

Baseball and softball caused 422,000 injuries, many of them leg injuries from sliding into bases.

Trampolines caused 248,000 injuries, which is not at all surprising.Those of you who are considering buying a trampoline for summer use should reconsider. All you have to do is think of it in terms of proportion. Think of the enormous number of kids playing basketball, baseball, or riding bikes, and then think of the comparatively fewer number of kids that have access to trampolines, and then consider that trampoline injuries ranked number four on the list.

Swimming accidents led to 114,899 injuries, which ranged from relatively minor scrapes to severe back and spinal trauma from diving into shallow water.

You wouldn’t think that volleyball would be on the list, but this seemingly contact-free sport resulted in 91,885 separate injuries that required medical treatment.

In-line skating was responsible for 66,101 separate injuries.

Tennis sent 17,838 kids to the hospital.

The point of listing all of these statistics isn’t to send parents into a panic and lock their children in their rooms for the summer. Accidents can and will happen to anyone, whether you’re playing touch football, jogging, or simply sitting on a park bench. But many of the injuries listed above were easily preventable. While it’s good for your children to be active, it’s especially important for them to be safe.With a few simple precautions, keeping them active and out of the emergency room is a pretty simple process.

Stretching: As hard as it may be to convince your child or teenager to do this, going through even some minor stretching before exercise or other strenuous activity can dramatically reduce the chance of injury. Pulled hamstrings and strained muscles are not only painful, but can keep your child from truly enjoying his or her vacation.

Wearing Protective Gear: Obtaining protective gear for kids isn’t very difficult. But making sure that they keep it on once they are out of your sight is the tricky part. Kids have a tendency to unload protective helmets, knee and elbow pads and mouth guards whenever they are playing unsupervised. While it’s impossible for parents to keep an eye on their kids all the time, you should make it clear that playing sports and being active does have risks to go along with the rewards.

Use Safe and Reliable Equipment: Make sure that bicycles, in-line skates and skateboards are properly maintained. You should also make sure that any protective gear or sports equipment is safe.The Consumer Product Safety Commission website has a frequently updated list of recalls and safety warnings of products of all types, including sporting equipment and safety gear.

Make Sure That Your Kids Are Wearing the Right Footwear: Most of the injuries that took place on the basketball court were ankle sprains. Basketball is a sport that requires strong ankle support, and wearing shoes that don’t provide it dramatically increase your chances of an injury.

Make Sure the Playing Field is Safe: It isn’t uncommon to find rocks, holes, sharp sticks or broken glass on an area where children play.Taking three minutes to make sure that the playing surface is clean and free of dangers can be the difference between a good time and a trip to the emergency room.

Drink Plenty of Fluids: Heatstroke and heat exhaustion are fairly common occurrences during the hot summer months, and they are also the most easily preventable. Avoiding heat-based injuries is simply a matter of keeping hydrated. So make sure that your kids drink plenty of water.

Protect Your Skin: While sunburn might not be as serious as a broken limb, it’s certainly easy enough to avoid. Even sunblock rated as low as spf 15 can be the difference between having a tan and spending three days avoiding all physical contact.

Make Sure There is a Trained Lifeguard at the Pool or Beach: Some hotels have a “swim at your own risk” policy and don’t have anyone there to keep an eye on things. While these pools should be avoided, if your kids insist on swimming, make sure that you are there to supervise them.

Make Sure That Your Kids Are Prepared: Make absolutely sure that your kids both know the number for the police or an ambulance and have the means to call them. Cellular phone companies have several plans for parents who are concerned about children and cell phones, and making sure that your children have the ability to stay in touch is an important way to keep them safe.

Accidents are one of the few inevitable things in life. But simply following the suggestions of this list can dramatically reduce the factors that allow accidents to happen.

Stay safe, and enjoy your summer. If your child sustains an injury over the summer contact our offices for a free consultation to see if  you are eligible for compensation.