Sports are on the forefront of plentiful minds with March Madness underway. It’s difficult not to marvel at these athletes and become engrossed by the madness. Between March Madness and the fact that it’s National Athletic Training Month, now’s also a good time to put the spotlight on Athletic Trainers – who certainly play a large role on all these teams trying to make it to the finals – and sports safety.

Athletic trainers are highly qualified, multi-skilled health care professionals who collaborate with physicians to provide preventative services, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.

Participation in sports provides a wealth of social, emotional, and physical benefits. It does wonders for developing a child’s life. However, among these positives, the risk of injury also increases with sports participation.

On the lower level youth sports programs, athletic trainers may be hard to come by. If you have children starting out in sports, it’s important to teach them about sports safety and prepare them for demands of playing a sport.

Sports training safety starts with a proper warm-up routine. Encourage your child to stretch before practice and games to release muscle tension – which helps prevent sports-related injuries. Make sure their coach is setting aside time for a good warm-up. They should start with about 10 minutes of jogging or some other light activity, followed by stretching all major muscle groups, holding for 20 to 30 seconds.

Remain mindful about the mind during athletic activity. Take no chances with the brain and know the signs and symptoms of a concussion: confusion, forgetful, moves clumsily, appears dazed, shows mood change, and answers questions slowly. When in doubt, sit them out. Concussions are a serious issue so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Always ensure your child is hydrated. Provide them a water bottle for all games and practices and encourage them to drink before, during, and after play. Also, confirm the coach is implementing regular water breaks.

Providing the adequate gear is also essential to an athlete’s health. Proper equipment like helmets, shin guards, mouth guards, and braces will help protect from injury.

If you have a child participating in athletics in Owosso schools, you may already be familiar with Allan Goetzinger, a physical therapist at Memorial Healthcare who also prowls the sidelines as an athletic trainer. It’s an honor for Memorial Healthcare to have someone like Allan not only creating an impact within the hospital walls but also within the community among all the young athletes.