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July 11, 2013

Kids and sports: Playing it safe

Ally Carr was learning how to slide into home plate this spring when she tore the meniscus in her knee. She had to have surgery to repair the tear and missed much of the season.

The 16-year-old softball catcher at Maret School in Washington hopes to be fully recovered in time to play volleyball in the fall.

More than 38 million children and teens play sports in the United States each year, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, and it's taking a toll. About one in three kids playing team sports is injured seriously enough to miss practice or a game. Those who, like Ally, play multiple sports that put pressure on the same body part are at an increased risk for injury.

Ally's mother, Kate Carr, is president and chief executive of Safe Kids. She says Ally is trying to condition her knees to better withstand the pressure that volleyball and softball put on them.

Her organization, which works to prevent childhood injuries, is trying to raise awareness of youth sports injuries and teach children, parents and coaches how to prevent them or minimize their effects.

"We [need to] begin to help our children understand that if you want to have a lifetime of being active, you have to protect your body while you're young," Carr said. "If you don't, it will either limit your ability to play this sport that you love or it will cause a lifetime of damage."

Here's what experts say about some common sports risks for children and how to recognize, prevent and treat them.

CONCUSSIONS

Causes: A direct blow to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head to jerk back quickly can result in a concussion. Gerard Gioia, chief of neuropsychology and head of the Safe Concussion Outcome and Recovery Education Program at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, said it's like an injury to the software system of the brain.

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