Running injuries are more common than you might think in youth sports. Many sports like soccer or basketball require regular movement and running. A child who has not trained correctly or is wearing inadequate footwear can easily suffer a running-related injury while participating in their favorite sport.

Following the proper guidelines for conditioning, nutrition, training and footwear can reduce a child's risk of injury. Here are four suggestions that will help keep them off the sidelines and let them be part of the action.

1. Create a running program

No child is too young to learn how to prepare to run. Helping them learn how to map out a progressive running program can reduce the odds for suffering injuries.

Spend at least five minutes stretching out muscles before running. Repeat for five minutes again following running. Stretching helps loosen muscles and joints to minimize the risks of cramps, sprains and tears.

When a child is running, they should always alternate pace between running, light jogging and walking. Staying at the same pace can quickly tire a child's body out and cause fatigue, which opens the door for suffering serious injuries.

2. Eat healthy

It sounds cliched to say you are what you eat, but it remains a fact. Healthy bodies are created from healthy diets. A child gains energy for sports from the food and drink they consume before a game. If they consume sugary or fatty foods and drinks, their internal battery will not hold a charge.

RELATED: Eating for competing: 10 ideas to help your athlete

Encourage children to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. They should also drink water instead of soda pop or other sugary drinks. This will give their bodies the right kind of fuel they need for any sport.

3. Focus on safety

Always plan running for times of the day when the weather is cooler. Running in excessive heat can lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Staying hydrated is important. You can lose between six and 12 ounces of fluid during a 20 minute run. Have your child drink 10 to 15 ounces of water at least 10 minutes before running. They should plan on replenishing lost fluid every 20 to 30 minutes through the duration of running.

4. Wear the right shoes

Footwear makes all the difference in running. Shoes need good shock absorption and cushioning. They must keep the foot stable while running. When choosing footwear, find a shoe specifically designed for running. It will protect the feet and ankles better than just any old pair of sneakers.

Where you run can have an impact on the life of footwear. Encourage your child to run on relatively flat and smooth surfaces when possible. Running on hills or other uneven surfaces can increase the stress placed on an ankle or foot.

Learning how to run properly will not offer complete insurance against running-related injuries. It will reduce the risk of injuries from occurring. Fewer injuries equals more fun for children participating in youth sports.

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RELATED: How to choose the right running shoes for your child

John Coon Follow

John Coon has covered sports at all levels as a reporter and editor since 2004. John's ... View Full Bio

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