Ways to Keep Your Kid Healthy and Injury Free

Get expert advice on how to protect your active teen during sports season.

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Q. My teen has an all-day competition coming up. How do I make sure she stays hydrated?


A. High school athletes need to drink about 12 cups of liquid daily, says Leslie Bonci, R.D., a sports dietitian for the University of Pittsburgh Athletics Department. One hour before the game, she should hydrate with about 20 ounces of fluid. Once she begins exercising, she needs 4 to 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes, and 16 ounces of a sports drink after every 60 minutes, which helps replenish the carbohydrates, potassium and sodium that she's lost on the field. After the tournament, make sure she drinks at least 16 to 20 ounces of water.

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Q. My 12-year-old son has developed a bump just beneath his knee that hurts when he plays basketball. What is it?


A. Sounds like Osgood-Schlatter disease. "In some active kids, the area where the tendon connects the knee to the shinbone gets irritated and a painful bump forms," says Elizabeth Szalay, M.D., professor of pediatric orthopedic surgery at the University of New Mexico. Have your son ice and take ibuprofen before playing basketball. "If that doesn't work, ask an orthopedist about a brace that keeps the knee straight when he's not exercising," suggests Dr. Szalay. "That way he can continue being active, but the knee also gets the rest it needs." The bump and the pain should disappear at around the time he stops growing.

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Q. How hot is too hot to let my child play sports outside?


A. "A kid's tolerance depends on what she's used to, so take extra caution during a heat wave," says Brendon McDermott, Ph.D., an athletic trainer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Be sure your kid drinks extra water, eats balanced meals and goes to bed early. If she's not feeling well, sideline her—it's harder for the body to stay cool when fighting infection.

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Q. My 11-year-old daughter is a gymnast, and her coach says she should wear a mouth guard. Is that necessary?


A. Even kids who participate in non-contact sports—like volleyball, racquetball and cycling—should wear them, says the American Dental Association. A mouth guard may be a small piece of equipment, but it provides a lot of protection: Kids who use them are two times less likely to get an oral injury, like a chipped or knocked-out tooth. Buy a boil-and-bite style ($2 and up) at a sporting goods store. If it doesn't fit, ask her dentist about a customizable one.

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Q. My 10-year-old son has asthma. Can he still play sports?


A. Absolutely, as long as his asthma is under control, says Melina Jampolis, M.D., an internist in San Francisco. Go for a jog together or watch him participate in some kind of physical activity. If he experiences any wheezing or coughing, see your pediatrician. He may need a different drug or a higher dosage, or he might not be taking his meds correctly. "Instead of getting proper treatment, many asthmatic kids simply avoid movement," says Dr. Jampolis. "That's a problem because all tweens and teens need at least an hour of exercise a day."