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Safety Tips for Holiday Football Games

THURSDAY, Nov. 28, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Pick-up football games are a Thanksgiving tradition for many people, but they can lead to injuries if you're not careful, an expert says.

"Playing in a Turkey Bowl is a great way to get some exercise and burn off those pumpkin pie calories," Dr. Pietro Tonino, program director of sports medicine at the Loyola University School of Medicine, said in a university news release. "But make sure you play smart to stay safe."

Tonino, who also is a professor in Loyola's orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation department, offered the following tips to reduce the risk of injury:

  • Don't tackle. Play touch or flag football instead.

  • Warm up by jogging, running in place or doing jumping jacks for a few minutes before the game. Then slowly and gently stretch, holding each stretch for 30 seconds.

  • Don't wear cleats. There's a risk that they'll cause your foot to be stuck in one position while the rest of your body is moving in a different direction, resulting in an injury. Wear gym shoes instead.

  • Wear a mouth guard. They cost just a few dollars and can save hundreds of dollars in dental bills.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothes, such as sweats. This will make it easier for your body to move and reduce your injury risk.

  • Remember your age. If you're 40, don't try to play like you're still 20.

  • Don't drink alcohol before or during your Turkey Bowl.

  • If you get hurt, stay on the sidelines until symptoms go away completely. Before returning to the game, make sure you have no pain or swelling and have normal strength and a full range of motion.

  • When the game is over, remember to stretch. This will help reduce muscle soreness the next day.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more holiday health and safety tips.

SOURCE: Loyola University, news release