As athletes prepare for summer sports camp, here are a number of safety tips that parents should consider to ensure a great experience for their children.
Before they leave for camp
- Make sure your child has had a pre-participation physical examinations (required by most camps) and that you have completed any questionnaires about existing medical conditions and medications.
- If your child is on medication, find out who will be in charge of administering it. Make sure the medication will not cause adverse side effects from sun exposure or strenuous exercise.
- Find out if the camp has medical insurance so you will be prepared in case of an injury, illness or accident.
- Check any required protective equipment for proper fit and condition, and be sure to pack any ankle or knee braces or other sport-specific equipment your child needs.
- Be sure that new shoes and equipment are broken in.
- Pack a water bottle so your child can stay hydrated during activities and in the dorm at night during overnight camp.
- Pack towels and flip-flops for showers, and remind your child not to share water bottles and towels to prevent spreading illnesses.
Who will be providing medical care
- Find out who will provide care to your child in case of an injury or illness. A dedicated healthcare professional, ideally an athletic trainer, should be at the camp to reduce risk and provide emergency care. It is important that medical decisions are made by a healthcare professional, rather than a coach or camp counselor. This eliminates any potential conflict of interest.
- If your child has a medical condition (i.e., asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, allergy), meet with the athletic trainer or other healthcare professional to discuss the condition and emergency treatment.
- Determine the parent/guardian notification process in case of injury or illness.
- Coaches should have proper training and education on key health and safety issues in case an athletic trainer is not available. They should also have CPR, automated external defibrillator (AED) and first aid training.
- Make sure the camp has an emergency action plan (EAP) specific for every practice and game facility. These plans are developed to manage serious and/or potentially life-threatening injuries and should be reviewed by the athletic trainer or local emergency medical service. Individual assignments, emergency equipment, and supplies need to be included. If an athletic trainer is not employed by the camp, other qualified individuals need to be present to render care.
- The camp should have AEDs onsite and staff trained in their use. The AEDs should be readily available within three minutes (preferably one minute) during practices and games.
Heat safety and hydration
- Before camp starts, gradually acclimatize athletes to warm weather activities over a seven- to 14-day period. They need to work out in the same conditions they will experience at camp. If they will be outside in the heat at camp, they need to progressively phase-in heat exposure and intensity of activity in the heat throughout the acclimatization period. The workouts should be at a similar time and intensity as will be experienced at camp.
- Have athletes keep water or sports drinks nearby. Individual containers are ideal so drinking is quick and easy during breaks. This will also offer easy access to beverages in the evening, which will help prevent dehydration.
- A great way to avoid dehydration and hyponatremia is to ensure campers are properly hydrated before they begin an activity by checking these three things: 1) if urine is darker than the color of lemonade – it does not have to be clear; 2) if they are thirsty; and 3) if they are urinating less frequently than normal. If they notice more than one of these inadequate fluid intake indications, they are likely dehydrated and need to increase their fluid intake.
- Campers should choose their flavor or type of drink and, whenever possible, keep the beverages on ice. They are likely to drink more if they like the flavor and it is chilled.
- Food and rehydration beverages should include sufficient sodium (enough to replace losses but not an excessive amount) to prevent or resolve imbalances that may occur as a result of sweat and urine losses during physical activity.
- For outdoor sports, campers should use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outside.
- Sunscreen should be applied even if the sun is not out. UV rays can be strong, even on a cloudy day.
- If campers are swimming or sweating, make sure their sunscreen is water and sweat resistant and reapplied during breaks.
- For outdoor camps, ask who is in charge of monitoring weather conditions and what weather system or app is being used.
- After the first lightning strike or boom of thunder, whoever is in charge of monitoring should make sure the activities immediately stop; everyone, including campers, staff, and spectators, must seek a safe facility.
- Once indoors, everyone should stay clear of water (showers, sinks, indoor pools, etc.) as well as appliances, electronics, open windows, and doors.
- After the final “clap” of thunder and/or flash of lightning, everyone must wait at least half an hour before venturing back outdoors. Every time thunder is heard or lightning is seen, the 30-minute clock restarts.
Just as parents don’t drop off their children at a pool without a lifeguard, they shouldn’t send young athletes to camp without this vital information. The National Athletic Trainers’ Association has created infographic handouts on sun safety, lightning and hydration and heat illness. Also, visit atyourownrisk.org for additional sports safety tips for athletes and parents.