Chemistry – A Star Player in Student Athletics
Updated March 24, 2021
Chemistry can help young athletes hit the ground running in more ways than you might think. Chemistry creates many of the products and gear that can help kids while participating in their favorite athletic activities – whether it’s track, gymnastics, swimming, soccer or other sports.
Below are a few examples of how chemical ingredients in sports and personal care products may help athletes win, on and off the playing field.
Play it safe:
Plastic helmets and other sports gear use innovative materials to help protect kids from injury on the playing fields. Helmet linings made from expanded polystyrene in different layers and densities enable helmets to absorb impact. The helmet’s shell – often made with polycarbonate – is durable and shatter resistant, but still lightweight, adding important protection for student athletes.
What you need to know about sports equipment and safety:
- The CDC suggests that kids and teens wear the right protective equipment for their sports and recreational activities. Ask a qualified coach or physical education teacher about the best types of safety gear for a particular sport.
- According to the CDC, concussions can occur in any sport or recreation activity, even if your child is wearing protective gear, so it’s important to learn the warning signs. Learn about concussion signs and symptoms and what to do if a concussion occurs here.
- Learn more about the best types of helmets for different types of activities on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.
Buzz off bugs! Using insect repellent with DEET:
Pests like mosquitoes, biting flies, chiggers and gnats can be irritants for young athletes. DEET, Icaridin, Citrioldiol and IR3535 are the four most common compounds approved in the United States as insect repellent ingredients. Each compound has slightly different characteristics, but they all work in similar ways by producing an odor that repels certain annoying insects. Of these, DEET is one of the most popular insect repellent ingredients—an estimated 30 percent of Americans use DEET products every year.
What you need to know about insect repellents and DEET safety:
- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DEET products used as directed should not be harmful, although in rare cases using DEET products can cause skin irritation.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that the “normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children.”
- For the safe and effective use of pesticide products, read and follow label instructions.
Keep using sunscreen:
To protect skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, health experts agree that sunscreen use – in all four seasons – is important. Sunscreens often include the active ingredients titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which protect skin by deflecting the sun’s rays. Titanium dioxide is often a primary ingredient in sunscreen because the compound works well as a UV filtering ingredient.
What you need to know about sunscreen and safety:
- The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and numerous federal agencies, health experts and organizations agree sunscreen is safe to use and can reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that “the risk of not using sunscreen is much greater than any potential risk posed by sunscreen ingredients.”
- Before an ingredient can be used in sunscreen, it must be approved by the FDA. Currently, FDA has approved 17 ingredients for use in sunscreen, including oxybenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
What You Need to Know about Vaccines and Safety:
Thanks to biochemistry, a flu shot or a measles vaccination can help keep student athletes in the game! In fact, all school-age children, from preschoolers to college students, need vaccines to ensure long-term health. According to the CDC, routine immunizations given to the 78.6 million children born in the U.S. over the past two decades will prevent 322 million illnesses and 21 million hospitalizations.
- The FDA regulates the development, testing and licensing of vaccine ingredients through a rigorous multiphase approval process that can take 10 or more years.
- The FDA continuously monitors vaccine safety even after approval.
- Children, especially those younger than 5 years, are at higher risk for serious flu-related complications. The flu vaccine offers the best defense, according to the CDC.
- Check with your school district to see what vaccines are required before your child starts school.
For more information about how chemistry helps students during the school year, read Six Ways Chemistry Helps Kids Get Back to School.