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Safety Check: Is Your Kid's Sports Gear Safe?

Every sport comes with risks, but faulty equipment shouldn't be one of them. We asked Jim Thornton, president of the National Athletic Trainers' Association, for the signs that your kid's sports gear might be doing more harm than good.

By Maria Masters

Track & Field
Injury: Ankle sprain
Equipment problem: Past-their-prime shoes
Just because your child's sneakers still fit doesn't necessarily mean you should keep them. Shoes should be replaced every season, says Thornton. Still, once a month, examine the soles for signs of wear. If the first layer of rubber has lost its tread, it's time to go shopping. Pay special attention to the heel and ball of the shoe. When these areas are worn down, your teen's ankle could roll as her foot strikes the ground.

Baseball
Injury: Head trauma
Equipment problem: Overused helmets
Don't judge a helmet by how it looks on the outside. It should be checked at the start of each season by an athletic trainer, who can detect cracks in the structure. "A high school baseball pitcher can throw 60 to 80 miles per hour," he says. "If a stray ball hits a kid in the head and the helmet is already damaged, he is more likely to suffer a skull injury." Wearing a chinstrap can help keep the helmet in place.

Soccer
Injury: ACL tear
Equipment problem: Pro-level cleats
Shoes designed for professional athletes aren't necessarily the best fit for your teen. Some cleats stop a player very suddenly, explains Thornton. That's fine for the pros (who have stronger hip muscles) but risky for high schoolers, who can suffer a knee-ligament injury by changing direction too quickly. "Kids may say that they need a certain type of shoe, but sometimes they're just asking for what looks cool." To find the right fit, go to a store with a knowledgeable sales staff.

Originally published in the April 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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