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Back-to-School Sports Safety

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NEW YORK (CBS) As the last month of summer gets underway, I am reminded of when I was in high school and playing on my school's field hockey team. We had the pre-season camp to attend and then practices and games in full-blown Indian summer weather. The beginning of the fall athletic season was really when you found out just how in-shape (or out of shape) you were after a summer of fun and relaxation!

Well, now that millions of teens are enjoying the last month of their summer vacation, their upcoming athletic seasons are looming on the horizon. A few well thought out tips can make the fall sports season a successful, fun and safe one.

Firstly, just as it doesn't take one week to fall out of shape, so too, it's impossible to get into prime physical condition at the last minute. Teens should be encouraged to start their pre-season training program WELL in advance of camps or try-outs. One month is a good general time period to begin a gradual cardiovascular training plan.

Secondly, I encourage both my children (who are pre-teens) to cross-train as much as possible. This means that if a teen plays soccer competitively in the fall, he/she should spend August swimming laps for conditioning (and fun)!

Lastly, educate teenage athletes about the importance of pre-hydration before practices and about how to prevent dehydration while exercising outdoors. I recommend that teens drink a 50-50 mixture of water mixed with a balanced electrolyte solution (any sports drink), and they should drink every 15 minutes while outdoors.

After exercise, they should continue to re-hydrate. For older teens, weighing themselves before and after a work-out can give them an indication about how much water weight they have lost due to sweat, and how much they need to drink to replace these fluids.

The other very important issue surrounding fall sports (and all sports in general) is concussion awareness. I will discuss this in greater detail in a future blog, but for now, suffice it to say that parents should find out if there is a certified athletic trainer at their teen's school and if a concussion is suspected, seek out a neurologist with a specialization in sports medicine/concussions.

I try to remind my children as often as possible that participating in sports takes commitment, effort, discipline and focus but that most of all it should be FUN! When I think back to my years spent participating on various teams, I am filled with incredible memories. Fall sports are as much a part of going back to school as is buying that new book bag! So teens: suit up! And parents: get your game faces on! Cheering on the sidelines can be quite the athletic adventure too! (Can you tell that I can be prone to loud cheering?)