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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Martial Arts

More than 6 million children in the United States participate in martial arts. Martial arts are known to improve social skills, discipline, and respect in children. Children can also improve their abilities to concentrate and focus on activities, as well as bettering their motor skills and self-confidence. Martial arts can be fun and beneficial at any age.

While the martial arts are relatively safe, injuries can happen because there is physical contact between opponents. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how to prevent martial arts injuries. Also included is an overview of martial arts forms.

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Instructors. Experienced instructors will teach at a level appropriate for your child’s age and maturity. Lessons should emphasize technique and self-control. Experienced instructors will carefully advance your child through more complex training. Lessons should also be fun. Visit a variety of instructors and ask about their experiences with young children and their teaching philosophy.
  • Technique. An instructor’s emphasis on technique and self-control is very important in limiting the risk for injury. Children should learn to punch and kick with their hands and feet in proper position and using the appropriate amount of force. Kicks and punches with the hand or foot in the wrong position can cause injuries to fingers and toes. Punches or kicks that are too hard can cause pain or bruises. Contact to the head should be discouraged.
    • Equipment. Safety gear should fit properly and be well maintained.
    • Headgear. When the rules allow, protective headgear should be worn for sparring or for activities with risk of falling, such as high jumps or flying kicks.
    • Body pads can help protect against scrapes and bruises and limit the pain from kicks and punches. Arm pads, shin pads, and chest protection for sparring.
    • Mouth guards.
  • Environment. Mats and floors should be safe to play on. Gaps between mats can cause sprained ankles. Wet or worn floors can cause slips and falls.

Common injuries

Scrapes and bruises

Scrapes and bruises are by far the most common injuries seen in the martial arts. They often result from falls onto mats, kicks and punches that are “off target,” or when proper padding is not worn. All scrapes and cuts should be washed with soap and water and bandaged before returning to activity. Bruises are best treated with ice applied for 20 to 30 minutes. They will slowly get better and fade over 2 to 3 days.

Sprains and strains

Sprains and strains become more common as children get older. Ankles, knees, and elbows are the joints most often sprained. Muscle strains usually happen in the front (quadriceps) or the back (hamstrings) of the thigh. Most knee and ankle sprains occur either by landing awkwardly after a jump or by improper contact with a partner. Elbow and wrist injuries happen with falling, punching, or blocking. Muscle strains can occur with trying to kick too high or punch too hard without using correct form or having properly warmed up.

Finger and toe injuries

Finger and toe injuries are often due to the large amount of kicking and punching of padded targets. They may also happen when sparring with a partner. These injuries are usually the result of poor kicking and punching technique. Contact with the target should never be initiated with the fingers or toes. Jammed fingers result from holding the hand in the wrong position (fingers spread) or if the toes are used to hit the target(instead of the heel or top of the foot).

Any injury that is associated with a dislocation, deformity, inability to straighten or bend the finger, or significant pain should be examined by a doctor. X-rays are usually needed. Buddy tape may be all that is needed to return to sports; however, this cannot be assumed without an exam and x-ray. Swelling often persists for weeks to months after a finger joint sprain. Ice, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and range of motion exercises are important for treatment.

Head injuries

Concussions can occur in martial arts if children fall and strike their heads, or if they are kicked or punched in the head. A concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary or permanent basis.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion range from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but may take hours to days to show up. Athletes who have had concussions may report feeling normal before their brain has fully recovered. With most concussions, the player is not knocked out or unconscious.

Prematurely returning to play after a concussion can lead to another concussion or even death. An athlete with a history of concussion is more susceptible to another injury than an athlete with no history of concussion. Once a concussion has occurred, it is important to make sure the helmet is fitted properly. If the concussion occurred due to the player leading with the head to make a tackle, he should be strongly discouraged from continuing that practice.

Types of martial arts

The term martial arts can be used to describe any number of styles or disciplines of self-defense practices. There are many different styles practiced around the world, with the most popular forms being karate, tae kwon do, and judo.

  • Karate (KAH-rah-teh) means “empty hand,” as it
    is normally practiced without weapons.
    Karate is a traditional Japanese form. The hands and feet are trained and prepared for use in a weaponless form of self-defense.
  • Tae kwon do (tahy-kwon-doh) means “the way of foot and fist.” This is a traditional Korean martial art. It is also the most popular. This form highlights discipline, respect, and personal growth and focuses on the use of the feet for powerful kicks in self-defense.
  • Judo (joo-doh) means “gentle way” and is known for a variety of throwing techniques. It uses many methods to control an opponent while on the ground. In many ways it is more similar to wrestling than to the other martial arts.
  • Kung fu (kung-foo) most commonly translates to “hard work” and is one of the oldest forms of martial arts. The term may be used to describe all of the hundreds of Chinese martial arts. Kung fu is mainly a “stand-up” form of the martial arts, known for its powerful blocks. Wushu is the most popular and modern form of kung fu.
  • Aikido (eye-key-do) means “way of harmony.” This Japanese martial art is known as a throwing style. It teaches a nonaggressive approach to self-defense, focusing on joint locks, throws, and restraining techniques, rather than kicks and punches. While aikido may be learned at any age, it is especially popular among women and older adults. Aikido is not practiced as a competitive sport.
  • Jujitsu (joo-jit-soo) means “the art of softness” and emphasizes techniques that allow a smaller fighter to overcome a bigger, stronger opponent. First practiced in Japan, jujutsu is considered a ground fighting or grappling style of the martial arts. Many of the forms have been incorporated into other martial arts such as judo, karate, and aikido. The arm lock and submission techniques have been taught to police all over the world.

How to Get Fit

What can I do to get more fit?

Any type of regular, physical activity can improve your fitness and your health. The most important thing is that you keep moving!

Exercise should be a regular part of your day, like brushing your teeth, eating, and sleeping. It can be in gym class, joining a sports team, or working out on your own. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Stay positive and have fun. A good mental attitude is important. Find an activity that you think is fun. You are more likely to keep with it if you choose something you like. A lot of people find it’s more fun to exercise with someone else, so see if you can find a friend or family member to be active with you.
  • Take it one step at a time. Small changes can add up to better fitness. For example, walk or ride your bike to school or to a friend’s house instead of getting a ride. Get on or off the bus several blocks away and walk the rest of the way. Use the stairs instead of taking the elevator or escalator.
  • Get your heart pumping. Whatever you choose, make sure it includes aerobic activity that makes you breathe harder and increases your heart rate. This is the best type of exercise because it increases your fitness level and makes your heart and lungs work better. It also burns off body fat. Examples of aerobic activities are basketball, running, or swimming.
  • Don’t forget to warm up with some easy exercises or mild stretching before you do any physical activity. This warms your muscles up and may help protect against injury. Stretching makes your muscles and joints more flexible too. It is also important to stretch out after you exercise to cool down your muscles.

Your goal should be to do some type of exercise every day. It is best to do some kind of aerobic activity without stopping for at least 20 to 30 minutes each time. Do the activity as often as possible, but don’t exercise to the point of pain.

A healthy lifestyle

In addition to exercise, making just a few other changes in your life can help keep you healthy, such as

  • Watch less TV or spend less time playing computer or video games. (Use this time to exercise instead!) Or exercise while watching TV (for example, sit on the floor and do sit-ups and stretches; use hand weights; or use a stationary bike, treadmill, or stair climber).
  • Eat 3 healthy meals a day, including at least 4 servings of fruits, 5 servings of vegetables, and 4 servings of dairy products.
  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after any exercise (water is best but flavored sports drinks can be used if they do not contain a lot of sugar). This will help replace what you lose when you sweat.
  • Stop drinking or drink fewer regular soft drinks.
  • Eat less junk food and fast food. (They’re often full of fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar.)
  • Get 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night.
  • Don’t smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or do drugs.

Ice Hockey

Ice hockey is one of the fastest sports and requires good physical conditioning and skating skills. It is a team sport played from the ages of 5 to 6 years through adulthood.

The severity of injuries is related to speed and physical contact (body checking). In the United States, body checking is allowed in league hockey at the age of 11 to 12 years, although the age can be younger in some leagues.

As player size and the speed of the game increase, injury rates and the severity of injury also rise. However, the risk of injuries can be reduced.

The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about how to prevent ice hockey injuries. Also included is an overview of common ice hockey injuries.

Injury prevention and safety tips

  • Equipment. Safety gear should fit properly and be well maintained.
    • Skates should fit well with socks on. Skates that are too tight can lead to blisters and frostbite.
    • Pads. Elbow, knee, and shoulder pads that fit properly and allow for full movement. Kidney- and thigh-padded shorts that overlap protective socks and shin guards so no skin is showing. Padded hockey gloves to protect the fingers and wrists from stick slashing and sharp skates.
    • Protective guards (neck guards, protective cups, and mouth guards)
    • Helmets with face guards approved by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC). Cracked helmets or helmets with outdated HECC certificates should not be used.
    • Goalie equipment is even more specialized, with a different helmet and mask, thicker padding, and skates with longer, thicker blades for stability and reinforcement along the inner foot for protection from pucks and sticks.
  • Equipment care. Dirty hockey equipment can lead to skin infections, especially where the hockey gear touches the skin directly. The “infamous” hockey bag smell is due to the growth of bacteria and other germs. Almost all equipment can be washed in a commercial washing machine. Helmets and face masks can be disinfected with antibacterial wipes, and the inside of leather gloves and gear bags can be cleaned with spray cleaners. Mouth guards should be washed after each use.
  • Many rinks have special “dry” cleaning machines that disinfect an entire bag of gear. To decrease the growth of germs, gear should be taken out of the bag after every practice or game, and the bag and gear dried out completely before repacking.
  • Environment. Only walk or skate on a pond or natural body of water that has received safe ice approval from local officials. Also, goal net posts should be easily removed so they are not dangerous obstacles during fast play.
  • Emergency plan. Hockey programs can organize and train a team to respond to injuries during games, as it is rare to stop play while players are treated off the ice. 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.

Special concerns


There is a common misconception that athletes who play in cold weather do not need to drink as much as those playing in warm weather. In fact, hockey players training in cold environments wear more clothing and may be unaware they are losing body moisture. Dehydrated athletes often perform poorly in multiple game situations like tournaments and during the last period of a game.

Hydration should take place before, during, and after games and practices. In general, athletes should drink 5 to 8 ounces of water or an appropriate sports drink every 20 minutes, even if they do not feel thirsty. Players not responding well, unable to drink, or with difficulty breathing may need emergency medical attention.

Exercise-induced asthma

  • Exercise-induced asthma is prevalent in hockey players who are prone to asthma because hockey is played in cold weather under dry conditions. Skaters should have a personal asthma action plan. Asthmatic skaters can prevent episodes by taking their medicines and using an inhaler before practices or games. Inhalers and spacers should always be on hand during activity. Skaters should stop skating and see a doctor if they have difficulty breathing while skating.


Cold weather, wet clothing, and tight-fitting skates can lead to poor circulation andfrostbite. Early signs of frostbite are pale or white skin with numbness and tingling of the exposed body part. It is important to dress in layers and wear wicking, fast-drying wool or polypropylene underwear and socks. Cotton clothing is not warm when wet and can contribute to frostbite and hypothermia by lowering the body temperature. Treat frostbite by increasing circulation and warming cold body parts in a heated room or under the clothes. Change wet clothing often.

Common injuries

Head injuries

Concussions in hockey most often occur from a blow to the head, from falls, or from being checked into the boards. A concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function on a temporary or permanent basis.

The signs and symptoms of a concussion range from subtle to obvious and usually happen right after the injury but may take hours to days to show up. Athletes who have had concussions may report feeling normal before their brain has fully recovered. With most concussions, the player is not knocked out or unconscious.

Prematurely returning to play after a concussion can lead to another concussion or even death. An athlete with a history of concussion may be more susceptible to another injury than an athlete with no history of concussion.

All concussions are serious, and all athletes with suspected concussions should not return to play until they see a doctor.

Youth hockey programs in the United States and Canada have active head injury prevention programs for athletes and coaches. Safe play and properly fitting helmets can prevent concussions, as does striking the boards at an angle with the head up when a collision can’t be avoided.

Arm and leg injuries

Injuries of the extremities should be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help reduce pain and swelling, but should be taken with food. Injured athletes should see their doctor if they have pain while playing.

  • Upper extremity injuries of the shoulder, arm, and wrist occur during falls or from being checked into the boards. Shoulder dislocations are very painful until put back into place. Persistent wrist or arm pain after a fall can signify a broken bone (even if there is no visible swelling or deformity) and should be iced and immobilized until it can be treated by a doctor.
  • Groin strains are pulled or torn muscles or tendons of the inner thigh. Hockey players and goalies doing forced push offs or slides on skates may get this injury. Treatments that may help are ice, NSAIDs, thigh wraps, physical therapy, and modification of activity. Groin strains can be prevented by warming up properly and doing muscle stretching as a part of team practices and games.
  • Knee injuries are more common in hockey than ankle injuries because the ankle and Achilles tendon are protected by a stiff boot. Knee injuries happen when the knee is forced or twisted to the side or back. If a ligament or cartilage is torn, a pop may be felt or heard, followed by visible swelling around the knee.
  • Overuse injuries, such as Osgood-Schlatter disease (irritation of the growth plate causing a painful bony bump below the knee), occur in 10- to 15-year-olds who play active sports with running, jumping, or skating. In hockey, a combination of off-ice training, overtraining, and frequent practices and games may lead to Osgood-Schlatter, thus limiting or changing activity may help.

Eye injuries

In the past, blows from hockey sticks and flying pucks caused many eye injuries. Now helmets with face masks have decreased the number of eye injuries, but they still can occur. Any injury that affects vision or is associated with swelling or blood inside the eye should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist. The AAP recommends that children involved in organized sports wear appropriate protective eyewear.

Making Fitness a Way of Life

Some school-aged children can’t wait to get home from school, stake out a place on the couch, and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening watching TV. Physical activity is just not on their radar screens, at least not by choice.

Stopping the Slippery Slope of Childhood Obesity:

Not surprisingly, children who fit this profile may be on a slippery slope to a life ofobesity. There are a lot of them. Several years ago, when a group of children 6 to 12 years old participated in programs of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, only 50% of girls and 64% of boys could walk or run a mile in less than 10 minutes. If that same study were conducted today, when the obesity epidemic seems to be gaining momentum, those statistics might be even more troubling.

Making Exercise Into a Lifelong Habit:

During your child’s school-age years, your goal should be not only to get your child moving, but to turn exercise into a lifelong habit. There are plenty of opportunities for your child to keep active.

Getting Involved in Organized Sports:

In most communities, children in this age group can choose to get involved in a number of organized sports, including:

  • Little League
  • Youth soccer
  • A martial arts class
  • Community basketball
  • Hockey
  • Football leagues

Team sports are fun and the perfect fit for many children, and they can help them manage their weight.

But, Sports Aren’t For Everyone…

However, group activities like these aren’t for everyone. Some obese children feel self-conscious about participating in team sports and are much more comfortable getting their exercise in unstructured settings. For them, free play on the playground,ice skating, in-line skating, bowling, or even running through sprinklers is good exercise.

Let your child choose something that he finds enjoyable, and once he discovers it, encourage him to make it a regular part of life. At the same time, limit TV watching or time spent on the computer or playing video games to no more than 1 to 2 hours a day. Studies have shown that the more time children devote to watching TV, the more likely they are to consume foods like pizza, salty snacks, and soda that contribute to weight gain.

If Your Child Insists He Doesn’t Want to Do Any Physical Activity:

Explain that it’s important and might even be fun to find a new activity. Try to find activities that fit the family’s budget and time commitments and have him choose among several alternatives.

How to Involve Friends & Family in Fitness Activities:

Some children might prefer to go with a friend or parent. Be creative and emphasize participation, not competition. To help your school-aged youngster become physically active, recruit the entire family to participate. Let your overweight child know that all of you, parents and siblings alike, are in his corner, and even if he has rarely exercised before, he can start now with the entire family’s support.

  • Go for family bike rides (with everyone wearing a helmet)
  • Swim together at the Y
  • Take brisk walks
  • Learn to cross-country ski
  • Sign up for golf lessons
  • Do activities of daily living together, such as household chores
  • Spend a Saturday afternoon cleaning the house or raking leaves

No matter what you choose, regular activity not only burns calories, but also strengthens your child’s cardiovascular system, builds strong bones and muscles, and increases flexibility. It can also diffuse stress, help him learn teamwork and sportsmanship, boost his self-esteem, and improve his overall sense of well-being.