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Gear Up

“Skiing consists of wearing $300 worth of clothes and equipment and driving 200 miles in the snow in order to stand around at a bar and drink”
P.J. O’Rourke

Equipment for sports, recreation and fitness activities can get very expensive but it is an investment you cannot afford to pass over. As individuals get more active, we are seeing an explosion of injuries. Each sport or activity has its unique pattern of injuries-mostly preventable. In fact, there are too many unnecessary injuries and even fatalities because individuals fail to use the proper safety equipment designed for their activity. Both adults and children are culprits.

Shed that bicycle helmet and you dramatically increase your risk of a serious, sometimes permanent or life-ending head injury. Ditto for motorcycle helmets. I am amazed that states, including my own Pennsylvania, are repealing helmet laws allowing motorcycle riders to go topless if they chose. The resultant injuries are devastating-something we all pay for. Ask any ER Doc. Some activities require more gear than others to be safe but all too often, individuals skip some of the necessary protection. A recent study showed only a small percentage of in-line skaters were wearing the full complement of safety gear (i.e. helmet, wrist guards, elbow and knee pads). Some wear a helmet and skip other pads. The more experienced skaters, who are usually doing the more dangerous stunts, were the most likely to wear no protective equipment at all. It is no surprise that they get more injuries, and more serious ones. It is also important that your equipment is in perfect working order and that it is sized correctly. It is not enough to have the most expensive, newest skis and bindings if they are not properly adjusted and tuned. If football shoulder pads do not fit properly there is a higher incidence of certain injuries such as “burners”, a nerve injury in the shoulder and arm area. Proper fitting mouthguards lower the incidents of tooth and jaw injuries, and even concussions, in many sports. Wrong size grip on your tennis racquet can result in “tennis elbow”, a very common form of tendinitis.

Professional athletes have full time athletic trainers to assure that they have the latest and greatest equipment. You can have the same. Always buy from a reputable store with knowledgeable staff. I prefer specialty shops, they tend to have more knowledgeable staff. Shop around and get several opinions before you buy-and don’t wait until the last minute where you might be rushed into a purchase. Children grow so quickly, so don’t assume that last season’s stuff still fits.

There is a wealth of sports specific safety information online. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has terrific information in its “Prevent Injuries America” program. KidsHealth offers great information regarding sports safety for children. Also, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is always a great resource on safety issues.

Sports will always have inherent danger and risk but with proper training, conditioning, technique and protective gear the rewards will far outweigh the risks.


FitTip

Check in with a Pro for both a lesson and equipment check-up. Never skimp on proper equipment unless you can afford the downtime of a serious injury or ailment.

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