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A few essential tips that every youth baseball coach should know

    As I mentioned in a previous post, it's almost the time of year again in which all of us are looking forward to the smell of fresh cut grass, the crack of the bat, the sunshine on our face and the anticipation that comes along with a new baseball season.  While most of us will be making the necessary preparations to ready our body and minds for our own seasons, there are those of us too that will no doubt be doing our best to steer the ship of our kids and community baseball teams.  For those of you who will be coaching in the Little League system, here are some essential tips you should know to help keep your players healthy.
    The number one tip coaches should remember is that children are not miniature adults and shouldn't be treated as such.  While this may seem obvious to most, many adults don't realize that children's bodies can't take the same amount of physical stress adult bodies can take.  That's because children are still growing and are therefore more susceptible to injury.
    Let me offer these additional tips to help coaches prevent injuries to their players:

  • A good warm-up is just as important as stretching. A warm-up can involve light calisthenics or a short jog. This helps raise the core body temperature and prepares all the body's muscles for physical activity.
  • Children should not be encouraged to "play through pain." Pain is a warning sign of injury. Ignoring it can lead to greater injury.
  • Swelling with pain and limited range of motion are two signs that are especially significant in children -- don't ignore them. They may mean the child has a more serious injury than initially suspected.
  • Rest is by far the most powerful therapy in youth sports injuries. Nothing helps an injury heal faster than rest. 
  • Children who play on more than one team are especially at risk for overuse injuries. Overuse injuries are caused by repetitive stress put on the same part of the body over and over again.
  • Injuries that look like sprains in adults can be fractures in children. Children are more susceptible to fractures, because their bones are still growing.
  • Children's growth spurts can make for increased risk of injury. A particularly sensitive area in a child's body during a growth spurt is the growth plate -- the area of growth in the bone. Growth plates are weak spots in a child's body and can be the source of injury if the child is pushed beyond their limit athletically.
  • Ice is a universal first-aid treatment for minor sports injuries. Regular ice packs -- not chemical packs -- should be available at all games and practices. Ice controls the pain and swelling caused by common injuries such as sprains, strains and contusions.

    Lastly, I want to mention an all too forgotten acronym that should be foremost in minds of youth coaches everywhere, R.I.C.E.  One of the most recommended icing techniques for reducing inflammation and treating minor injuries, R.I.C.E. is an acronym for rest, ice, compression and elevation. It is best used for pulled muscles, sprained ligaments, soft tissue injury, and joint aches. Applying R.I.C.E. treatments will decrease pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, swelling and tissue damage. It achieves this by reducing blood flow from local vessels near the injury and decreasing fluid hemorrhaging as a result of cell damage.
    To administer R.I.C.E. use the following guidelines suggested by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
  • Rest: Stop using the injured body part immediately. If you feel pain when you move, this is your body sending a signal to decrease mobility of the injured area.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the injured area, using a towel or cover to protect your skin from frostbite. The more conforming the ice pack the better, in order for the injury to receive maximum exposure to the treatment.
  • Compression: Use a pressure bandage or wrap over the ice pack to help reduce swelling. Never tighten the bandage or wrap to the point of cutting off blood flow. You should not feel pain or a tingly sensation while using compression.
  • Elevation: Raise or prop up the injured area so that it rests above the level of your heart.
    How long should ice be applied while practicing R.I.C.E. for it to be effective? There are four levels of cold felt by the skin: coldness; a prickly or burning sensation; a feeling of aching pain; and finally a lack of sensation or numbness. When the area feels numb, icing should be discontinued. The skin should return to normal body temperature before icing again. Usually numbness can be achieved in 10 to 20 minutes. Never apply ice for more than 30 minutes at a time or tissue damage may occur.
    It is generally recommended to practice R.I.C.E. at intervals of 4 to 6 hours for up to 48 hours after an injury. Heat treatments are appropriate for some injuries, but should only be considered after inflammation has receded, approximately 72 hours after an injury. If the body part does not respond to R.I.C.E. therapy within 48 hours, it would be wise to consult your health care provider in the event a serious injury has occurred (ie: internal bleeding, a broken bone, etc.).
    For minor injuries, use R.I.C.E. instead of plain ice!

    This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical treatment or consultation. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury.


  • TopEndSports, Sports Medicine - What is R.I.C.E?, Louise Roach
  • Health Tips Coaches Should Know - Temple University Hospital

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