PUBLISHED: 4:30 PM on Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Huddle up for football safety
August signals the beginning of school, last days of summer and the all American saying, "Are you ready for some football!"

So it's no surprise to see children suiting up and heading out on the field.

As parents, we take all the necessary precautions to keep our children safe beginning with the pre-season sports physical and then making sure they're suited up in protective gear to keep them from serious injury during those side line tackles. But even with all the precautions we take, injury can still occur, so here are some play calls for coaches and parents to help keep children safe.

Physical conditioning is important for players and they must be able to use oxygen and fuels efficiently to power their muscles.

A lot of running in short burst occurs during a game and if players are not conditioned they can experience lightheadedness, nausea, fatigue and potential injury, so keep them active and warmed up by running, jumping and stretching.

It doesn't have to be hot for a player to become dehydrated so encourage the drinking of lots of water before, during and after a game.

Dehydration can occur when an athlete losses as little as 1 percent of body weight. In a 70 pound child, that is less than one pound of fluid lost through sweat.

Some indicators that a child may be dehydrated are:

• Dry lips and tongue

• Sunken eyes

• Apathy, loss of energy

• Infrequent urination or urination that has a strong odor

The progressive effects of dehydration are dangerous and can cause an increase in heart rate, a decrease in blood flow to the skin and a steady rise of the body's core tempeture to dangerous levels. So pack the water and Gatorade for the sideline and encourage the players to drink.

Although heat related illnesses might not be as much of a concern in Southeast Alaska, hypothermia is, especially when the children are playing for long periods of time in steady rain and wind chill factors.

When a person is exposed to cold temperatures, our body's normal temperature begins to drop.

Our bodies counteract this by shivering, creating heat in the core of the body but decreasing blood flow to the other extremities. Here are a few practical steps to take during the cold and rain:

• Make sure players are dressed in protective clothing such as under armour. Stay away from cotton. When it becomes wet it losses it's insulating capacity and robs your body of heat.

• Keep players active to maintain body heat. If you notice a player who begins to shiver, get them into an area protected from the elements and warm them with a blanket or jacket.

Coaches should develop an emergency plan, which consist of emergency numbers for all your players, medication being taken, allergies and any medical conditions, such as asthma.

Make sure that you always have a well-stocked first aid kit with you on the field during practices and games, and be sure it holds enough supplies to care for several players with various injuries.

And the No. 1 thing that we all can do to protect our child on and off the field is to become trained in first aid and CPR. Remember that help may be minutes away and in the event of a breathing emergency, seconds count.

So huddle up and break for safety and make this a great season for both you and the kids.

To find out how you can become trained in first aid and CPR, to purchase a gift certificate for your favorite coach or to purchase a first aid kit for your team call in a play plan to your American Red Cross at 463-5713.