Sports Physical Exam
Athletes should have a preparticipation physical evaluation (PPE) to make sure they are ready to safely begin the sport. The best time for a PPE is about 4 to 6 weeks before the beginning of the season. Athletes also should see their doctors for routine well-child checkups.
Athletes should maintain a good fitness level during the season and off-season. Preseason training should allow time for general conditioning and sport-specific conditioning. Also important are proper warm-up and cool-down exercises.
Athletes should learn and practice safe techniques for performing the skills that are integral to their sport. For example, baseball and softball players should avoid headfirst slides, and run bases with a helmet and break-away bases. Athletes should work with coaches and athletic trainers on achieving proper technique.
Safety gear should fit properly and be well maintained
- Protective eyewear. Glasses or goggles should be made with polycarbonate or a similar material. The material should conform to the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials. Batting helmets and catcher’s masks with face masks also are recommended.
- Shoes with rubber (not metal) spikes
- Pads (knee and shin guards)
- Athletic supporters and cups for boys
- For catchers: helmets with face guards, throat guards, knee-saver pads, and chest protectors (Note: Chest protectors cannot prevent direct trauma to the heart.)
- For batters: batting helmets, face guards
- Safety baseballs (Softer balls decrease overall injury from getting struck by the ball in addition to lowering the risk of commotio cordis.)
- Heat. Proper hydration and scheduling practices and games during cooler times of the day can prevent heat-related illness and dehydration.
- Lightning. Guidelines should be in place to postpone play until a safer time. Play should be stopped for 30 minutes after the last strike if lightning is detected within a 6-mile radius (follow the 5 second per mile rule). A safe area (buildings with metal pipes or well-grounded wires) should be identified ahead of time. No one should stand under the bleachers or other non-grounded structures.
- The field. A safe playing field is free of debris; holes and uneven surfaces should be repaired. The infield and pitcher’s mounds should be raked and smoothed regularly. Evening games should be well lit. Breakaway bases should be used to reduce injuries from sliding. A runner’s base placed to the right of the first base foul line in the runner’s lane is one way to help prevent collisions at first base. Safety screens should be in place to protect the dugouts from balls and thrown bats.
Teams should develop and practice an emergency plan so that team members know their roles in emergency situations. The plan would include first aid and emergency contact information. All members of the team should receive a written copy each season. Parents also should be familiar with the plan and review it with their children.